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2012 NFL Offseason: Atlanta Falcons

Draft Grades, Season Previews, Offseason Needs, Free Agents

Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 10-6)

2012 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
ILB Lofa Tatupu, CB Asante Samuel.
Early Draft Picks:
C Peter Konz, OT Lamar Holmes, FB Bradie Ewing, DE Jonathan Massaquoi.
Offseason Losses:
FB Ovie Mughelli, OLB Mike Peterson, ILB Curtis Lofton, SS James Sanders, KR Eric Weems.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Offense:
The Falcons thought they were one player away from Super Bowl contention when they traded a barrage of picks for Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft. They clearly misevaluated their talent, as they discovered when the Giants essentially blanked them on the scoreboard in January.

That's not to say that Jones didn't help their offense. Matt Ryan threw for career-highs in both passing yards (4,177) and touchdowns (29) even though he attempted five fewer passes than he did in 2010. Jones was a big help, especially down the stretch once he returned from his hamstring injury. He registered 31 catches, 525 yards and six touchdowns in his final half-dozen games. This includes a game-high seven receptions for 64 yards in the aforementioned defeat against New York.

Jones will emerge as Ryan's No. 1 target in 2012. His sheer talent isn't the only reason; the decline of Roddy White is also a factor. White is still a receptions machine - he has 215 catches the past two years - but he's lost some of his explosiveness, which is hardly a surprise because he'll turn 31 in November. White also has unreliable hands; no one in the NFL had more drops than White last season (15).

Elsewhere in Ryan's receiving corps, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez have returned despite being a free agent and a retirement candidate, respectively. Douglas is an underrated slot receiver, while Gonzalez, 36, rebounded last year from a dismal 2010 campaign in which he looked unbelievably slow. Unfortunately, the future Hall-of-Famer is playing on his last legs, and his talent could completely erode by September. Atlanta did not draft his successor, so it'll have to do so next April.

One of the reasons why the Falcons were criticized for giving up too much for Jones was because they depleted their depth and prevented themselves from addressing a very important position of need. That would be left tackle, where Sam Baker and Will Svitek took turns embarrassing themselves last season. Atlanta could have chosen Riley Reiff with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but instead had to settle for Lamar Holmes in the third round. Holmes has some athleticism at 6-5, 325, but he's raw and won't be able to contribute immediately.

The rest of the offensive line is looking pretty solid. The Falcons spent their second-round selection on Wisconsin's Peter Konz, a borderline first-round prospect. Konz will start at right guard this season but will eventually move to center to succeed Todd McClure, who played well at 34 last year. Left guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Tyson Clabo are both excellent in pass protection, though the latter needs to cut down on his penalties (eight in 2011).

Another position the Falcons couldn't address because of a lack of resources was running back. Michael Turner had a solid 2011 campaign overall, but really looked like he was running on fumes down the stretch. He averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry in only one of his final seven games, and that came against a Buccaneer team that quit. Head coach Mike Smith told the media that Turner will be featured less this year; some of his touches will go to Jacquizz Rodgers, a very small (5-6, 196) but speedy running back whom the Falcons acquired in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Rodgers cannot carry a full workload, however, so Atlanta will have to find a complementary player next April.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Defense:
The Falcons have obtained exactly one big-name free agent in each of the previous two offseasons. They'll be hoping that this year's acquisition, Asante Samuel, is better than 2011's Ray Edwards.

Samuel was a steal for a late-round pick. He was disgruntled and highly paid in Philadelphia, so Andy Reid was more than happy to part ways with him. Samuel turned 31 in January, but still played extremely well last year, surrendering a sterling completion percentage of 47.5. That's almost as good as Brent Grimes' unbelievable figure (44.3), so the two should form an incredible cornerback tandem. Grimes was missed at the end of last season when he went down with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Dunta Robinson, who really struggled in 2011, will move to a more comfortable slot corner position.

The one weakness in Atlanta's secondary in the wake of the Samuel trade is free safety Thomas DeCoud, who was often picked on by opposing quarterbacks last season. Strong safety William Moore made up for it, but he needs to stay healthy. He's missed 18 games in his 3-year career, which does not include the aforementioned loss to the Giants; he barely played in that contest because of a groin injury he suffered in the first quarter.

As for Edwards, the former Viking really disappointed. He could barely generate any pressure on the quarterback, notching just 3.5 sacks despite playing across from John Abraham and his 9.5 sacks. Both players were very good in run support, but Edwards really has to pick up the slack in 2012, especially considering that Abraham, at 34, is past his prime and could be in for a major decline any season. The Falcons spent a fifth-round selection on Jonathan Massaquoi, but he probably won't contribute very much this year.

The interior of the defensive front is pretty solid. Jonathan Babineaux is a very well-rounded player; he can apply some pressure on the quarterback and hold his own against the run. Corey Peters, meanwhile, did an OK job in run support last year, but hardly ever rattled opposing signal-callers. Atlanta will want 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry to push Peters, but it appears as though that ship has sailed. Jerry hasn't been the same since shredding his knee during his rookie campaign.

The Falcons had one major loss this offseason, and that was Curtis Lofton, the team's leading tackler (147 tackles), who signed with arch rival New Orleans. They added Lofa Tatupu as a possible replacement. He'll battle it out with 2011 third-rounder Akeem Dent to see who lands the starting gig. Tatupu was out of the league last year, so it's tough to speculate what he could possibly contribute. Dent, meanwhile, barely played as a rookie, so he's just as much of an unknown.

Surrounding the winner of the Tatupu-Dent competition are Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas. Weatherspoon didn't play very well as a rookie in 2010, but really stepped up last year, becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. Nicholas is a pretty decent two-down run-defender.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Schedule and Intangibles:
In four seasons, Matt Ryan is 26-5 in the Georgia Dome. That's an impressive record on paper, but it didn't seem to matter much when the Packers waltzed into the Falcons' house and slaughtered them, 48-21, last January.

Eric Weems, now with the Bears, was a very good punt returner. He didn't score last year, but maintained a 9.8 average, while the Falcons restricted the opposition to 4.8. Weems was outgained on kickoffs, however. No touchdowns there either, for or against.

Matt Bryant has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past two years. He was 28-of-31 in 2010 and 27-of-29 last season. He's 3-of-3 from 50-plus in that span. He just turned 37.

Matt Bosher didn't have a successful rookie campaign as Atlanta's new punter. He averaged 42.7 yards per attempt with 27-of-70 tries inside the 20.

Atlanta's second-place schedule is pretty difficult. The team has to deal with the Chiefs (road), Broncos (home), Chargers (road), Eagles (road), Cowboys (home), Giants (home), Lions (road), as well as the Saints and Panthers twice.

2012 Atlanta Falcons Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):

Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2012 Atlanta Falcons Analysis: The Falcons have to love what the Saints have gone through this offseason. That makes their quest to re-claim the NFC South so much easier. But the regular season can't be very important to the fan base, given that they've seen Atlanta blow homefield advantage throughout the playoffs to the Packers in January 2011. The 2012 campaign will be all about finally living up to expectations in the postseason.

Projection: 10-6 (Tied 1st in NFC South)

2012 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2012 NFL Season Previews


Leave a comment

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Vince 06-24-2012 04:04 pm (total posts: 2)
52     10

"Eric Weems, now on the Bears..."

Uhh, okay, so who's the returner next year and what about him?
greg 06-24-2012 11:54 am (total posts: 1)
137     93

come on man 2 stars for runningbacks?! dude you need to stop this Turner falling off a cliff thing every year you said this for 3 years now yet he was 3rd in rushing last year... yeah he's getting close to the end but even is he falls apart soon rodgers is something to watchout for
Huh?!? 06-24-2012 03:02 am (total posts: 1)
91     15

If Peria Jerry were to explode on the field how would that be lucky. There would be blood and guts; people would be ruined for life having witnessed that. Unlucky is more like it.
Phreek 06-24-2012 01:29 am (total posts: 1)
43     25

Eric Weems is on the bears now, not the falcons.
Migelini 06-23-2012 11:36 pm (total posts: 1)
46     54

Taptua beest defenceman. Make falcon gong grate. Taptua send falcon bak to supergame. Falcon win divisin cause ryan Matt beeter throweer then Breez.
Scott Carasik 06-23-2012 10:31 pm (total posts: 1)
14     12

Konz will not be playing C in the long term. that will be Hawley. the long term RG is Konz.
ATL!!! 05-21-2012 06:44 pm (total posts: 2)
20     17

The Falcons got a good season ahead of them but the have to sign Marcus McNeil and a quality DT to rotate in unless we get lucky and Peria Jerry explodes onto the field!!!
Scott Carasik 05-16-2012 10:29 am (total posts: 2)
66     19

Walk, the Falcons have McClure's eventual replacement at Center... Joe Hawley
Mr. McSwag 05-04-2012 12:21 am (total posts: 5)
31     29

Oh wait. My mistake - 4 teams were looking to trade up to get Jake Bequette, who was taken right before Lamar Holmes. I guess it was a reach by Atlanta after all.
Falcons! 05-02-2012 06:25 pm (total posts: 2)
20     11

The Falcons had a good all around draft but still should address some positions in Free Agency. They still should land a LT, DT, LB and a Safety. Marcus McNeil, Aubrayo Franklin, and Yeremiah Bell would all be good signings and would definatly give ATL the push to control the divison
Mr. McSwag 04-30-2012 04:08 pm (total posts: 1)
43     20

From what I've heard, there were 4 teams that were going to take Lamar Holmes in the 4th. The Falcons definitely wouldn't have gotten him. I think they should have traded down further if they could've for more picks, but when you consider that they took another 5th rounder and Lamar Holmes, it's pretty good.
id 04-30-2012 02:55 pm (total posts: 1)
67     41

This whole/hole thing comes down to whether Holmes develops or not. Dimitroff and Smith both say he's got good feet, natural strength, an outstanding work ethic and a nasty streak.
Most of the "experts" you can't really grade a draft pick until three years after he's drafted yet you guys are having a pissing contest over Mel Kiper's opinion. ... If Dimitroff quit and went to ESPN would his opinion mean more? .... Yeah, get a life.
ego 04-30-2012 03:22 am (total posts: 5)
14     80

Okay, okay. So your right. Who cares? We'll see in a few years who was ultimately right.
Ego-less 04-30-2012 03:09 am (total posts: 5)
26     106

Also, if you so strongly disagree with this website's opinion and you think it's worthless, why the heck are you even coming to the website? It's not like there are trick links that drag you here.

It sounds like you're just trolling for the sake of it. That's even more pathetic. Man, get a life.
Ego-twad 04-30-2012 03:05 am (total posts: 5)
42     91

Yes, of course you would. Because NFL scouts never make mistakes, huh?

Scouts and "media-types" as you call them (perhaps you don't realize that Mel Kiper made the draft what is it, and he has pissed out more draft knowledge that you have ever known) have the same "bust-rate." If they each are right and wrong the same amount - look up the stats, because I did - then why would you take prefer one over the other other than to look like a pretentious a-hole who can cut down others?

Also, those "big boards" are run by people who have spent their life scouting - do you even know that? They're paid just like scouts. They all live and die (reputation-wise) by their evaluations. Just because one happens to work for a team doesn't make them more of an expert.

Lastly, did you happen to watch the draft? Did you seem the smirks on some of the talent evaluators in the other teams' draft rooms when Atlanta made their call? It was a mistake, and everyone else - other experts, as you would call them - knew it.

Face it - you're biased towards your team and/or your favorite personal "sleeper" draft pick and you want to feel protective of it.

Really, it's just sad to see.

2012 NFL Draft Grade: C+

Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The offensive line is the greatest area of concern. Left tackle and right guard are major problem areas. A successor for Todd McClure is also needed at center. Unfortunately, Atlanta doesn't have a first-round pick.

2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: This is a tough grade because the Falcons didn't pick until No. 55 and had only two selections in the top 150. I loved what they did with their first choice in picking Peter Konz. The Wisconsin lineman fell because of injury concerns, which were overblown. He'll be a force on Atlanta's front, starting out at guard and then taking over for McClure in a year or two.

The rest of Atlanta's picks were decent, save for Lamar Holmes, who was not in the top 225 of many major big board. He was a big reach at No. 91, but maybe the Falcons, who didn't pick until No. 157, thought there would be a good chance he wouldn't be available in the fifth round.

2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

55. Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin: A+ Grade
Medical issues affect draft statuses, but they are usually overblown. Peter Konz fell because of the medical. If he happened to be healthy, he would have been drafted in the final stages of the first round. The Falcons are getting incredible value here. Konz also fills a huge need; he can play at guard until center Todd McClure retires.

91. Lamar Holmes, OT, Southern Miss Matt Millen Telemarketer Kielbasa Salesman Grade
I didn't have Lamar Holmes being drafted. No major big board ranked him in the top 225. The Falcons probably could have obtained him in Round 6 or 7. Maybe they know something no one else does.

157. Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin B- Grade
Ovie Mughelli is coming off a torn MCL, so it's understandable why the Falcons would draft a fullback. I think this is a bit early for Bradie Ewing, but it's not much of a reach.

164. Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy A Grade
This is a really good value pick. Jonathan Massaquoi was ranked No. 84 on Mike Mayock's big board, and he was No. 116 on the consensus rankings. The Falcons had to find a young pass-rusher to perhaps eventually take over for John Abraham.

192. Charles Mitchell, SS, Mississippi State B Grade
Safety depth had to be addressed, so this pick makes sense. Charles Mitchell could have gone a bit later than this, but given that this is Atlanta's penultimate pick, it's not a big deal.

249. Travian Robertson, DT, South Carolina B Grade
The Falcons don't have much depth at defensive tackle, so this pick makes sense. Travian Robertson probably should have been selected at this spot.

Season Summary:
The Falcons thought they were one player away from becoming one of the Super Bowl favorites, which is why they traded the farm for Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jones didn't disappoint, but pretty much everyone else did. The Falcons have some glaring holes on their roster, but with no first-round pick to fill any of them, it'll be difficult for them to improve.

Offseason Moves:
  • Falcons cut FB Ovie Mughelli
  • Falcons acquire CB Asante Samuel from Eagles for late-round pick
  • Bears sign CB Kelvin Hayden
  • Falcons sign SS James Sanders
  • Falcons re-sign C Todd McClure
  • Saints sign ILB Curtis Lofton
  • Falcons re-sign LS Joe Zelenka
  • Falcons re-sign DE John Abraham
  • Bears sign WR/KR Eric Weems
  • Falcons re-sign WR Harry Douglas
  • Falcons re-sign QB Chris Redman
  • Falcons re-sign DT Vance Walker
  • Falcons sign ILB Lofa Tatupu
  • Falcons re-sign RB Jason Snelling
  • Falcons re-sign S Thomas DeCoud
  • Falcons re-sign DE Kroy Biermann
  • Falcons franchise CB Brent Grimes

    Offseason Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: The Giants manhandled Atlanta's offensive line in the playoffs. One of the issues was at left tackle, where Sam Baker was benched during the year. Will Svitek was solid in relief early, but really struggled down the stretch. Acquiring a left tackle without a first-round pick will be difficult, unfortunately. Drafted Lamar Holmes

    2. Cornerback: It doesn't appear as though Brent Grimes will be back in Atlanta next year in the wake of speculation that he sat out the playoff game to avoid injury (per Pro Football Weekly). Franchised Brent Grimes; traded for Asante Samuel

    3. Center: Todd McClure is a 35-year-old free agent. If he's not retained, the Falcons will obviously need a replacement. A Day 2 selection could suffice. Re-signed Todd McClure; drafted Peter Konz

    4. Defensive End: Ray Edwards was a disappointment as a free-agent acquisition. John Abraham is a 34-year-old free agent who frequently disappears in big games. Kroy Biermann is due to hit the market as well. Re-signed John Abraham and Kroy Biermann; drafted JOnathan Massaquoi

    5. Running Back: Michael Turner is pretty much done. He averaged 3.6 YPC or worse in six of his final seven games, losing any sort of burst he once had. Jacquizz Rodgers is just a third-down scat back, so the Falcons need a new starter. Re-signed Jason Snelling

    6. Inside Linebacker: Stud inside linebacker Curtis Lofton is a free agent who must be re-signed. Signed Lofa Tatupu

    7. Right Guard: It's unclear if last year's fourth-round pick, Joe Hawley, is the answer at right guard. He was brutal in the postseason loss, but he'll be better next season.

    8. Tight End: Tony Gonzalez just rebounded with a great year, but he'll be 36 in February. He could decline next season, and if he doesn't, it's likely that the 2012 campaign will be his last. A successor will need to be acquired.

    9. Free Safety: Thomas DeCoud is another free agent I'm sure Atlanta would like to retain. Re-signed Thomas DeCoud

    10. Wide Receiver Depth: Help is needed behind the starters and free agent Harry Douglas. Re-signed Harry Douglas

    11. Linebacker Depth: The Falcons will be thin here if Mike Peterson walks.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Lofa Tatupu, ILB, Seahawks. Age: 29.
      Signed with Falcons (2 years, $5.75 million)

      Lofa Tatupu (or Taptua) oddly received no interest in 2011. Maybe a year off was what he needed to recover from all of his injuries.

    Atlanta Falcons Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Curtis Lofton, ILB, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Signed with Saints (5 years)

      Curtis Lofton is a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker. Re-signing him is Atlanta's No. 1 priority this offseason because he's the soul of the defense.

    2. Brent Grimes, CB, Falcons. Age: 29.
      Franchised by Falcons

      Despite size and speed limitations, Brent Grimes is a very talented cornerback. The only question is his dedication. There is speculation via a Pro Football Weekly report that he sat out the playoff game so he wouldn't risk a big pay day by getting hurt. If so, Grimes might be one of those take-the-money-and-run bust free agents. Caveat emptor.

    3. John Abraham, DE, Falcons. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)

      John Abraham is pretty overrated because he comes up small in big games, usually racking up his high sack totals against poor opponents like Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars. He'll be 34 in May, so his best days are far behind him.

    4. Todd McClure, C, Falcons. Age: 35.
      Re-signed with Falcons (1 year)

      Todd McClure turns 35 in February, but he still gets the job done. His skills could erode without warning, however, which is why I'm listing him at just three stars.

    5. Eric Weems, WR/KR, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bears (3 years)

      Eric Weems scored two special-teams touchdowns in 2010, but couldn't find the end zone this past season. However, he was still effective on returns, maintaining solid averages in both punt and kick returns.

    6. Kroy Biermann, DE, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)

      Kroy Biermann had a very solid 2010 campaign, but struggled this past season, notching only 2.5 sacks despite playing about 35 snaps every week. He was invisible against the Giants.

    7. Thomas DeCoud, FS, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Falcons (5 years, $17.5 million; $4 million guaranteed)

      Thomas DeCoud is good in run support, but tends to get lost in coverage. He performed poorly in the beginning of the year, but picked up his play late.

    8. Ovie Mughelli, FB, Falcons. Age: 32.
      Ovie Mughelli is coming off a torn MCL. He needs to prove that he can still be an effective blocker.

    9. Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Falcons
    10. Vance Walker (RFA), DT, Falcons. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Falcons (1 year)
    11. Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Falcons (3 years)
    12. Mike Peterson, OLB, Falcons. Age: 36.
    13. James Sanders, SS, Falcons. Age: 28. -- Signed with Cardinals
    14. Reggie Kelly, TE, Falcons. Age: 35.
    15. Kelvin Hayden, CB, Falcons. Age: 29. -- Signed with Bears
    16. Chris Redman, QB, Falcons. Age: 35. -- Re-signed with Falcons
    17. Brett Romberg, C, Falcons. Age: 32.
    18. Kirk Chambers, OT, Falcons. Age: 33.

    2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings Coming Soon

    Divisional Rival History:
    Carolina Panthers: The host has won six of the past eight meetings. The Falcons had a fluky comeback at Carolina in 2011 though.
    New Orleans Saints: The Saints have won 10 of 12 in this rivalry. New Orleans can thank Garrett Hartley for missing an overtime field goal during one of those two losses.
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Ryan is 6-2 against the Buccaneers. There's no need to explain that record.

    Features to be Posted This Offseason:
    1. 2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
    2. Detailed season preview
    3. Fantasy football projections
    4. Positional rankings
    5. Daily updates on free-agent signings

    More 2011 NFL Offseason Pages:

    DAL / NYG / PHI / WAS /
    CHI / DET / GB / MIN /
    ATL / CAR / NO / TB /
    ARZ / SEA / SF / STL /
    BUF / MIA / NE / NYJ /
    BAL / CIN / CLE / PIT /
    HOU / IND / JAX / TEN /
    DEN / KC / OAK / SD /

    2012 NFL Offseason Pages

    Fantasy Football Rankings - July 22

    2015 NBA Mock Draft - July 1

    2015 NFL Mock Draft - June 10

    NFL Free Agents

    NFL Picks - Feb. 2

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