In this series of four articles I will analyze the the top 5 game changing moves that each NFC South team has made to date and how it will affect their chances at a Super Bowl run.
Keep in mind, however, that I truly am a Saints fan; but I am just reporting the facts objectively and placing each team on an equal playing field.
We will start with the Dirty Birds.
Last season the Atlanta Falcons were hoping for Matt Ryan to have a whale of a season to complement the run game, which was led by Michael Turner.
However, their season was de-railed when Harry Douglas suffered a season-ending ACL tear and Michael Turner showed up to training camp overweight and not very motivated.
These events foreshadowed what would be a long disappointing season.
The Dirty Birds suffered a slew of injuries throughout the season to key players such as QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, DT Peria Jerry, and LT Sam Baker. These injuries ultimately led to their 9-7 record and failure to acquire a postseason berth.
These 5 game changing moves in the 2010 off season, however, should give the Falcons hope for the upcoming 2010-2011 season.
1. The acquisition of Dunta Robinson: The disgruntled corner was franchise-tagged prior to the 2009 season, much to his dismay. After a promising rookie season in 2004 in which he recorded 3 sacks, 13 pass defenses, and 6 interceptions; he suffered a major dropoff in production and a rash of nagging injuries that kept him off the field.
Robinson has recorded only 7 interceptions in 5 seasons — that is only one more than he recorded his entire rookie year.
But as they say, a change of scenery can make a huge difference for a player.
The Falcons are certainly hoping so. Eight teams passed for over 275 yards against the Falcons last season, with the largest number of yardage coming against the New York Giants, who racked up 368 passing yards against their 28th ranked pass defense.
That just won’t do it when you are in the same division as the New Orleans Saints and their potent aerial attack.
In comes Dunta Robinson, a potential shutdown corner. If he can stay healthy and motivated, the Falcons will have made one of the best acquisitions in the entire offseason; as he is capable of jamming receivers at the line and re-routing them, allowing the pass rush that extra second to reach the quarterback.
2. Acquiring Sean Weatherspoon in the NFL Draft: While the Falcons do have a solid linebacking corps, led by Curtis Lofton, who is quickly making a name for himself as one of the better linebackers in the league, Mike Peterson is not getting any younger.
While Stephen Nicholas often shows flashes of brilliance, he also has many mental lapses in coverage that can cripple their defense.
In steps Sean Weatherspoon, the starting weak-side linebacker for the Missouri Tigers.
During his career with the Tigers, Weatherspoon recorded 388 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions —all in only three years as a starter.
Spoon brings speed off the edge for a team that desperately needs it as the Falcons accumulated only 28 sacks during the 2009 season.
The speed that Weatherspoon adds to the Falcons defense will allow them to make more plays in the backfield and prevent the big play by opposing offenses only helping to improve on their 28th ranked pass defense from a year ago.
Great move by the Dirty Birds.