The Falcons are coming off a 13-3 season that ended in the NFC Championship game where they squandered a 17-0 lead in the second half to the San Francisco 49ers. The last time the Falcons came off a 13-3 season, the result was a 2-3 start with an ultimate finish of 10-6 as an NFC Wild Card. The Falcons were once again bounced from the postseason, losing in the first round of playoffs to the New York Giants 24-2.
To avoid the cliché of one giant step forward followed by two steps back, the Falcons stepped up their game this offseason to ensure forward progress with the eternal goal of a Super Bowl Championship in mind.
First, the brain trust comprising of Head Coach Mike Smith, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Owner Arthur Blank decided on fixing the Falcon’s running game problem that plagued them throughout the 2012 season. Michael Turner was no longer the yardage machine that he used to be, finishing the 2012 season with his lowest average yards per carry and failing to break 1,000 yards for the first time in a full season with the Falcons.
To give the Falcons an adequate chance at having a promising running game to complement Matt Ryan and his trio of wide receiver’s, Falcons management signed veteran Steven Jackson from the St. Louis Rams. Jackson has rushed for over 1,000 yards ever year since 2005, not to mention his past five years of over 300 receiving yards in addition. He currently holds the most career rushing yards for all active running backs and is a two-time Pro Bowler.
After solving the running back predicament, the management trio focused on filling in the gaps of the renowned Falcons defense. The Falcons lost their best pass rusher in Jonathan Abraham after both sides failed to reach a contract agreement, but the signing of free agent Osi Umenyiora makes up for the fact that the Falcons will be without their leading pass rusher in the fall.
The only other questionable area of the Falcons defense resides in the replacement of cornerbacks Christopher Owens, Dunta Robinson and Brett Grimes. The Falcons devoted their entire focus in the 2013 NFL Draft on fixing this gap in the secondary. By trading up to receive St. Louis’ 22nd overall pick, the Falcons were able to snatch highly touted cornerback Desmond Trufant and later in the draft, CB Robert Alford. Both of these rookies are expected to see some playing time, accompanying one of the best corners in the league in Asante Samuel as well as the best nickel back in the league in Robert McClain.
Finally, the most important offseason move by the higher ups of the Falcons organization was convincing the thirteen-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez to come back after previously announcing retirement. Besides being a fan favorite, Gonzalez holds the NFL record for touchdown receptions (107) and total reception yards (14,268) by a tight end. Not to mention the fact that Gonzalez was crucial in the Falcons’ success, making countless unbelievably clutch receptions throughout his time with the organization.
Gonzalez decided to prolong retirement largely to be able to spend more time with his twelve year old son Nikko; however, it was Nikko who convinced him to give it one more shot. In a Sportscenter interview, Gonzo says, “Really it came down to what my 12-year old boy said. He said, ‘You know what, Dad, you got a great football team, you guys got a chance to go get a Super Bowl’ and he knows that’s the only reason I’m playing at this point…So that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m going to be coming back.”
The Atlanta Falcons seemed to make all the right moves in the 2013 offseason to prepare for forward progress in the upcoming 2013 season. We will not know the outcome of these offseason moves until play starts on September 8th against the New Orleans Saints.
What do you think? Which offseason move will prove to be the best decision for the Falcons? Will rookie sensation Desmond Trufant live up to expectations? Voice your opinions in the comment section below!