The Off-season Creeps Along
School is out, summer’s here, and the Dead Zone of Falcons Football is upon us. At least there’s a few OTA reports out there and mini-camp (that’s open to the public), but overall we’re sliding to the desert of football season. This year’s much less painful for most Falcons fans due to the DQ Regime taking over and the excitement level being extremely strong. Throw in one of the best draft classes in recent memory (at least on paper) and it’s all adding up to a hopeful time.
However, with little to no activity, this is a great time to preview the upcoming year and take a look at the Falcons rosters ahead of the 2015 season. I was watching one of my new favorite shows the other day, Silicon Valley, on HBO. It’s a hysterical comedy produced by Mike Judge (of Beavis and Butthead fame) about all the Silicon Valley startups and all the craziness and eccentrics that go with it. Anyway, this was in a recent episode and it reminded me of a neat process learned in business school @ UGA…………
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfB0g_JDIds (Adult Language Included)
The SWOT Analysis is a great analysis tool that can be applied to any organization. Since it’s the Dead Zone, why not do a S.W.O.T. Analysis of our upcoming 2015 Falcons?
Clearly, this is the easiest and most obvious strength. Ryan is heading into the quote-unquote “prime” of his career and he looks to finally have a system that adapts to his strength (intermediate, WCO pass game) and a running game that will take some weight off his shoulders. Under Smith, they used the power blocking scheme since day 1 with personnel that wasn’t even close to matched for that style. Throw in some very nice additions on offense including Justin Hardy, Leonard Hankerson, Tevin Coleman, and some competent tight ends in Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki, and Ryan is poised for a strong season.
When the Falcons traded for Julio Jones, this has always been a major strength of the team. Paired with Roddy White, Jones has helped make up one of the best WR tandems in the NFL, when healthy. Harry Douglas and Devin Hester provided good depth in the past as well. This year, however, the Falcons finally set out to upgrade and get younger. They brought in Leonard Hankerson on a one year deal and also drafted the super-productive Justin Hardy in the draft. The Falcons may even keep 6 receivers after giving Eric Weems a new deal in the off-season. With the new players in the fold, the Falcons continue to keep receiver as a major strength.
Everything is optimistic on the pass rush front. It’s Dan Quinn’s specialty. We’ve added arguably the best pass rusher in the draft in Vic Beasley. Not to mention one of the biggest steals in the draft in DT Grady Jarrett. They brought in several free agent additions who can get after the QB, including Adrian Clayborn, O’Brien Schofield, and Justin Durant. Ra’shede Hageman is apparently on a mission and most believe that DQ will get the best out of guys like Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga, and hopefully Tyson Jackson. All that being said, however, fans won’t and can’t believe the hype until they see it. Falcons have been among the worst in the NFL in pass rush since seemingly forever. This remains the biggest weakness until proven otherwise.
The Falcons front office and DQ have done a pretty good job of filling in gaps this off-season, which was a ridiculous task back in February. One of the few areas they didn’t address was safety. They let one of the most consistent players at safety go in Dwight Lowery. William Moore has battled injuries his entire career. They also are moving Dezmen Southward to cornerback. They brought back Charles Godfrey on a seeming starter salary and he appears to be the favorite at free safety. Kemal Ishmael is one of the more underrated Falcons this off-season. By all measures, he had a pretty great year. They drafted Akeem King and have talked about moving Ricardo Allen back to safety, but this remains one of the weakest areas until proven otherwise.
Most will disagree here and put this as an outright weakness, but I have my rose-tinted glasses on. First of all, them moving to a Zone Blocking System is the biggest and most helpful move. It finally moves the Falcons to a system that fits to their strengths. The stalwarts are few and far between, but Jake Matthews should only get better when healthy at left tackle and Jon Asamoah at right guard isk super solid. Most expect Joe Hawley to thrive in the new system when he heals at center. Ryan Schraeder and James Stone both showed bright spots last year in an awful situation, as did Lamar Holmes. The front office added Tyler Polumbus, Jared Smith, Mike Person, and recently veteran Chris Chester. The Falcons also have guys like Peter Konz, Sam Baker, and Harland Gunn that could improve with better coaching. DQ and Co. look to finally do what Smith always promised in creating a true competition for all the spots on the offensive line. And, really, can it be much worse than it’s been the last few years?
This is an obvious opportunity that many are extremely hopeful about going forward. Devonta Freeman is driven like a madman to be the next great running back and carry the load. His work ethic and motivation seem to be unmatched. Throw in one of the most talented and productive running backs in the draft and all of a sudden the Falcons have completely revamped their running back corps. And that’s not including bringing super-speedster Antone Smith back. This really looks have the makings of something special, especially considering how weak this group has been since the heyday of Michael Turner.
Some would put this position squarely in the Weakness category and there’s not much argument against it. This has been one of the most dreadful positions for the Falcons for a long time. This group was never a strength under Mike Smith and was consistently one of the worst. They invested a first round draft pick (Weatherspoon) and it still failed to produce many results at all. The biggest sack total for a linebacker in one season was 4 sacks. That’s pretty awful. In fact, it had gotten so bad that the Falcons were starting two undrafted rookies (Worrilow and Bartu) and a rookie (Shembo). They went out and signed some quality LB’s in Brooks Reed and Justin Durant. O’Brien Schofield and Vic Beasley will probably rotate back to LB at times, as will Kroy Biermann. Stansly Maponga will be in the mix as well as players less likely to make it including Tyler Starr, Allen Bradford, Nate Stupar, and Marquis Spruill. Worrilow is apparently having a better off-season than any other Falcons, at least according to Dan Quinn. While there looks to be a lot of competition and some more talent, it still is a very worrisome group.
What’s your Falcons S.W.O.T. Analysis?