Posted: 9:59 am Friday, July 25th, 2014

Poll: Falcons open camp, what’s your pick? 

By Jeff Schultz

061114 falcons CC21

Falcons lost Sean Weatherspoon (right), they can’t lose Julio Jones. (Curtis Compton)

FLOWERY BRANCH — I usually get a feeling how good or bad I think a football team will be. That doesn’t mean I’m right, but something about the previous season and the offseason at least gives me some sense of direction.

But about the 2014 Falcons: I have no idea what’s going to happen.

If you missed it, I have a column posted on MyAJC.com on the start of training camp later today. Here’s a free link to it.

I’ve posted a simple poll because I’m curious what you think. Rather than guess how many games this team will win, let’s focus on what matters most: playoffs. So the question is: By the time the regular season ends, do you think the Falcons will be the NFC South Division winner, a wild card team or miss the playoffs?

There are a number of questions that need to be answered, primarily how the reconstructed offensive line fares, where the pass rush comes from, what becomes of a think linebacking crew that has already lost Sean Weatherspoon, the health issues of Julio Jones and the unknown of what Steven Jackson has left at the age of 31.

Here are a few other things on my mind as camp opens:

• As I opined Thursday on Twitter, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should be ashamed of himself  for giving Baltimore running back Ray Rice only a two-game suspension for domestic abuse, which resulted in his fiance Janay Palmer being knocked on unconscious. Goodell has mostly been skewered in the court of public opinion, and he should be. This is a league that suspends a player four games of a third positive marijuana test. I’m not in anyway minimizing drug use, but there’s big a difference in a misdemeanor in which an individual inflicts harm to himself and a felony inflicts pain and endangers the health of a woman. Rice should’ve been suspended for at least half the season. If an arbitrator overruled that, so be it. At least the league would’ve done the right thing. As NFL writer Jim Trotter of ESPN noted on Twitter, “I wonder if (Goodell) would’ve been as lenient if it had been his daughter or sister laying unconscious outside that elevator.”

• It will be interesting to see coach Mike Smith’s approach to practices. He wants the team to be more physical and the defense obviously needs to tackle better. But NFL training camps generally aren’t physical any more because of fear of injuries, roster limitations and the salary cap. He’ll have to strike a balance.

• Most preseason NFL predictions have New Orleans winning the NFC South, defending champion Carolina (12-4 last year) dropping off a few wins and the Falcons winning eight or nine games. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King listed his pre-season top 15 teams and the Falcons weren’t among them (and the list included nine NFC teams): Seattle, Green Bay, San Francisco, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Denver, New England, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Arizona, San Diego, Cincinnati, Carolina, Baltimore.

• Good move by the Falcons giving Roddy White a four-year contract extension, but like any NFL deal don’t assume that means White will be here for four years. Only $11 million of the $30 million is guaranteed, and White can earn $18 million in the first two years. After the 2015 season, he’ll be 35 years old. White gets criticized for sometimes saying the wrong thing but I’ll say this for him: He’s arguably the toughest player on the Falcons’ roster and plays through injuries more than anybody.

• I’ve made it no secret that I disagree with owner Arthur Blank’s decision to orchestrate the team being on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in training camp. Blank has branding and ticket sales on his mind, not doing what’s best for his football team on the field. The objective or any football operation is to minimize distractions and that’s true more than ever after a 4-12 season in which the Falcons unraveled. Now, for clarity: Does that mean believe the Falcons being on this lame reality show is guaranteed to be a disaster? No. But there’s no reason for Blank to be subjecting his Smith, to this, especially coming off last season — and despite Smith playing the good soldier publicly, don’t believe he’s happy with this decision.

Some pre-vacation blogs and columns (free links)
– MyAJC: Falcons open with more questions than buzz
– MyAJC: Georgia still recruiting too many of wrong kids
– Blog: Giants take a chance on Dan Uggla
– Blog: June Jones whiffs on spring football idea
– MyAJC: Back to reality: Payne a nice pick for Hawks
– MyAJC: Hawks’ quest: LeBron, Carmelo or anybody elite
– Blog: LeBron, Carmelo opt out: Are Hawks an option?
– Blog: It’s ‘Mark Emmert Appreciation Night’! (sort of)
– MyAJC: Soccer has our attention: Will we stay this time?
– MyAJC: Times change, we change: ‘Redskins’ have to go
– Blog: Braves out of first place — not that they deserved to be there
– MyAJC: Nats, trip may force Braves to make a move
– Blog: Possible Braves’ moves: Bethancourt up, B.J. to bench?
– Blog: Is it time to drop Freeman in batting order?
– MyAJC: Is La Stella that Prado-like spark Braves need?
– Blog: With ‘Hard Knocks,’ Falcons camp just became a clown show
– Blog: Weatherspoon injured (Is this happening again?)
93 comments
TheLine
TheLine

Saints or Carolina win the south. Falcons, who are they?

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

So just to add a little insight to Peter Kings top 15 teams...


"Losing Dansby first, then Washington, and now Mathieu and Abraham for the first month
spells a long and painful season for the Cardinals."


Let the season play out! You never know what is going to happen between now and the first game! Not smart to count out the Falcons...or any team for that matter. 

JaySly
JaySly

to get results and motivate players, arthur needs to prowl the sidelines the whole game instead of just the 4th quarter----maybe he can call a few plays and hand out c-notes to players for "exceptional" effort!

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

"I’m not in anyway minimizing drug use, but there’s big a difference in a misdemeanor in which an individual inflicts harm to himself and a felony inflicts pain and endangers the health of a woman."


Out of curiosity, does the fact that it was a woman matter?

Esquire
Esquire

Do writers drink when they write?  


(.....and I don't mean sweet tea)

JaySly
JaySly

With Matt Julio and Rodney lighting up the scoreboard atl should win this weak division! The saints are overrated and Carolina was a flash in the pan. Atl will beat them 3 out of 4

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

You sure do not write about The Georgia Bulldogs, Jeff Schultz.


It would seem there are many such topics ripe for discussion here :


I watched the Cooperstown Hall of Fame and saw 6 elected, 4 of whom I watched played baseball here in Atlanta.  2 were inducted in Braves' caps.


2 of the 4.


Why's that ?


UGA fans insist on censorship to keep intact their notion that Mark Richt is one of the top 5 best college coaches in the history of college football.


Ah B.S. at 54-26 to Alabama 72-9 the most recent half a dozen seasons.  What Mark Richt did in 2005 was a long time ago.  He's 1-9 as Visitor vs teams ranked for the season Top 25 teams 2007-2013.


So, why is it then that a vocal clique want to censor any facts such as now 11 have been arrests/suspensions for 2014 alone, including a recruit charged with felony when he came here.  Why is it that THIS happens here, and at none of the other schools he was being recruited at, that he came here and is arrested for felony charges ?


http://ugathomasbrown.wordpress.com/


devounknown1000
devounknown1000

This year I would like to see Josh Vaugh getting the ball a lot more in the preseason.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Falcons have to get back to running the football.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MikeS777
MikeS777

I agree, the Falcons have no business being on Hard Knocks. That's exactly the wrong thing to do when you're looking to turn a team back around.  Also, the season will all depend on how these rebuilt lines play.  If the O line plays well, the team's offensive woes of last year will be gone.

I'm more concerned about the D line and front seven.  They DBs were terrible last year.  Clearly Grimes and Robinson were key as they masked a lot of issues up front.  Trading Abraham for Umenyiora was not smart at all.  If you want to upgrade the pass rush, you sign Umenyiora to help Abraham, not replace him.  So while the Falcon's D looked like the Keystone Cops, Abraham and Grimes were making the Pro Bowl.

My only hope is the success of Seattle and SF has shaken the front office up so that they realize the high flying offense is just going to get them dismantled by the old school formula of defense + running game.  Ravens, NY Giants, Steelers, and now Seattle have shown that's the way to go if you want to win championships.  With any luck, they will continue to draft and improve the lines and defense. 

J-Dawg
J-Dawg

Hard Knocks is a "lame reality show?" I get that you wish the Falcs weren't the subject of the show this year, but its hardly a lame show. In fact, its probably the only reality show that ISN'T lame.


BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Were you drunk or just forced to meet a deadline, making you produce so many grammatical mistakes?  Or, did they stop paying you to write, making you just an amateur blogger?  Do you get a prompt to "edit in 5 minutes" when you post?  Or, are you plagiarizing something left in the waste basket by Bedwetter?

GTBee
GTBee

My pick is Cleveland. Cleveland everything. Football. Basketball. Etc. LeBron and Johnny Football have helped to escalate Cleveland to the top of the sports world. Cleveland will rise from the ashes just as Atlanta did after Sherman paid his visit to the South.

nonamedawg
nonamedawg

Blank needs to stay in his suite and let his employees do their job. No need for his theatrics (see Michael Vick) or grandstanding on the sidelines. He will end up making millions from his purchase, which I am glad he did from the Smith family. No more TV and get on the field and play. The Ronneys in Pittsburgh and the publicly owned Packers do it right. Just look at Dallas with Jerry Jones versus the New England Patriots with Kraft.


RickyBobby
RickyBobby

Agree on the O line BUT, we gotta rush the opposition's QB.  We can't let guys like Brees stand back there for 10 seconds. 

ColdSplash
ColdSplash

O-line, o-line,o-line. Nothing else matters. If it's mediocre. Falcons don't come close to playoffs, and then end of mike smith and Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta will be here. Finally. And it will prove that what I've been suspecting for a number of years: They simply "ain't got it."

6points
6points

Falcons were not as bad as last years record.  Every team in the NFL is only a few players lost from a bad year.  The Falcons lost a lot more than a few players last year and every one of them key players.  Falcons are going to bounce back BIG this year.  This team will be better than 2012 team.  If (unlike the 2012 team) they will keep the peddle to the mettle when they get a big lead offensively there is no telling what they can achieve.  Defense will be much improved finally.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

One thing/idea I will plant now.  This season reminds me a lot of the season when the Falcons were coming  off of the Petrino/Vick season.  No one was showing the team any love and they really surprised the NFL.  After that things took flight and people started expecting them to win. 


Well the good thing is that the media and the talking heads don't expect much from the home team this year.  Can we surprise again and get back on track?  Yes! We have a lot of "if's".


1.  If SJ has one good year in him?

2.  If  Baker can block and go back to baking pancakes?

3.  If the line (on both sides of the ball) is improved/ not to mention do we have linebackers that can play?

4.  If our wide outs stay healthy.

5.  If Smitty does not crap the bed.

6.  If the defense can actually play without a scheme on third downs?

7.  If we start strong?

8.  If our rookie class from two years ago and this year FINALLY show that TD knows how to pick defense players and they finally show they belong in the NFL?

9.  If Ryan leads with his heart this year...so much talent but many still question his heart and winning the "big game".


10. And finally IF we can get that loser Joe Tess AKA Barves Loss Again AKA PLAIN OUT LOSER, to leave the blog and never come back....


I know a lot of ifs but if #10 comes to reality we can work on the other 9!


And let me say it...yes I am a homer and I am getting excited!


RISE UP!

TheOldMan
TheOldMan

These two Belichick disciples better quit with the knee jerk roster reactions like the Lofton scapegoating and the Jones draft and build a team for the long haul.  The guy above who characterized some of these draft picks as "stretches, head scratchers and misses" hit it right on.  The defensive ends rotation sounds like an Indonesian law firm.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Much will depend on if the Falcons can remain generally healthy.  If so, I believe they stand a 60% chance of making the playoffs.  Biggest concerns I have are:


1) Julio's level of production post-surgery.

2) Defensive pass rush

3) Steven Jackson health at age 31 and effectiveness behind a young OL

4) Jake Matthews impact on OL in rookie season

5) Mike Smith finding a defensive strategy to stop good offenses on 3rd downs.

6) Matt Ryan INTs from not having 6'5 250lb target Tony Gonzales in pressure spots

gfw
gfw

No one could be tougher, when he's in his "protecting the brand" mode, than Roger Goodell.  But he saw the tape made in the elevator.  None of us did.  He had the conversation with Rice's wife.  We don't know what was said.  I can't think of any possible reason why he gave Rice such a relatively mild punishment except that he thought it was the JUST thing to do, under all the circumstances.  The easy, and popular, thing would have been to lower the boom on him.  I was initially shocked at the mere two weeks.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we should trust Goodell's judgment here.

RangeRover
RangeRover

As for the Falcons, this is easily the single most important first game in their history.  They must themselves wonder where they stand:  was last season the beginning of a 2-3 year rebuilding run or truly an aberration spawned by horrific injuries and the worst OL in their history?

If they lose to the Saints after what happened in their first game last season it could affect their psych and back-to-back losing seasons is very possible.  If they lose convincingly we could be looking at a miserable season and many new faces in 2015.

On the other hand, if that dome is rocking and they put on a solid performance and win that game, I think you are looking at a team that will immediately become the division favorite and a team that could go anywhere from 10-6 to 12-4.

Game one is huge and I will be there, row one, midfield, right behind the players bench....

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

I see the Falcons winning 9/10 games and getting into the playoffs as a 6th seed.

RangeRover
RangeRover

"Goodell has mostly been skewered in the court of public opinion, and he should be."

Links?  Jeff, stop with the puffing and sensationalism!  I read and listen to many media outlets and your comment I quoted above is the epitome of puffing a story.

Now I agree that Rice should have received much worse but Goodell must have heard some promising things from both husband and wife that factored into his decision.  And speaking of Goodell, he is hands down by a mile the best pro sports commissioner today and one of the very best all-time.  The guy is a supreme professional, has the well-deserved, unanimous respect of the owners, and runs the tightest ship possible.

indianman14
indianman14

I SEE THEM WINNING THIRTEEN GAMES THIS YEAR AND HAVE THE NO.1 SEED


4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@nonamedawg I fail to see why you or anyone else has a problem with Blank being on the field at the end of games. How is he grandstanding? Is he getting in peoples faces, or making speeches down there? No…he is there in support of the team…his team. It is his right after all, and it makes no difference in the outcome of the game. "Theatrics"…what theatrics? Blank pushed Vick in his wheelchair during pre game one time and it was not meant to be seen by the media, and to this day the only people who have a problem with that are morons like yourself. Blank always wanted the best for Vick (and all his players), so what the hell is wrong with that? Blank is one of the better owners in the league, and he has learned from the experience IMO. He is a great ambassador to the league and players want to come here because of him. These are things that you could never say about the Smith's. All owners have their own style, and Blank's is one that is generous, wants a winner and for Falcons Fans to be entertained.


Here's a tip for you and the other dumbasses out there. Blank is a self made billionaire and you are not. He owns a football team, and you don't. He knows more about business and marketing than you or Shultz, so reserve your criticism on things you know absolutely nothing about, because it just makes you look like fool.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

@CynthiaTuckerrhymeswith Sounds like you are not a fan of Falcon football. If so, then why care or comment. Go watch the Kardashian's and eat another tub of ice cream.

JSSN
JSSN

@AnsweredTHIS

There are no 0-16 Detroit Lions (Jon Kitna), 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs (QB's by Tyler Thigpen), Bears (QB'd by Kyle Orton), Vikings (QB'd by Tavaris Jackson- Fumbling and bumbling), or Marc Bulger's on this schedule. You may want to rethink this one. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@AnsweredTHIS: "10. And finally IF we can get that loser Joe Tess AKA Barves Loss Again AKA PLAIN OUT LOSER, to leave the blog and never come back....

_____________________

Well, he did promise never to come back if the Falcons didn't draft J Manziel. So he's not only a loser, but a liar as well. 


PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@RangeRover 

"Goodell, he is hands down by a mile the best pro sports commissioner today and one of the very best all-time."


Somebody doesn't follow the NBA.

JSSN
JSSN

@RangeRover

Seriously, Goodell is still looking over his shoulder in fear of a series of Congressional subpoenas. He lied straight to face of Congress about head injuries. He knows it.  Don't mistake being a pawn of Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Jerry Richardson with being a leader! I rarely read ESPN, but they pegged it regarding the hypocrisy of his tenure. He let Arthur Blank go untouched when he settled his sexual harassment suit. He was the Tagliabue's right hand enforcer back in 2003. Yet he threw the book at assistant coach who plea bargained a DUI case to a misdemeanor charge. That is classic Goodell!

http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/page/RogerGoodell/game-rules

DawgNole
DawgNole

@4DaBirds @nonamedawg: "Blank is one of the better owners in the league, and he has learned from the experience IMO. He is a great ambassador to the league and players want to come here because of him."

_______________________

Perhaps your worship of Blank--and your condemnation of those who criticize him--can help you explain to us how his "greatness" has translated to playoff success for the team. Hello?

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

I am going to stick to all the what if's. Total of 9 but hey who thought they were going to do what they did two years ago? For some reason this team I think is much closer to the 12-4 team ( if thy win 12 I will be blown away) than the 4-12 team we saw last year. But it only matters to me not what the record ends up to be but what they do in the tournament at the end of the year...if they get there!

Plus although I don't want to say it because I don't wish it on anyone..injuries play a part for all teams...if they healthy or not healthy! Ask the last year Falcons.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@JSSN


We'll respectfully disagree, but I appreciate you disagreeing with me without the all too common personal attacks we all too often unnecessarily incorporate in our disagreements.  It's a shame that whatever embittered you regarding the Falcons can't be forgiven; you could offer so much more...

JSSN
JSSN

@DawgNole 

Your boy is off his meds. I wonder if s there is such a thing a negative baseline measure using Google Analytics for a WordPress blog? If so, than it must be in use for his blog! Gracious sakes alive, if he'd only stay over there and entertain himself!

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@DawgNole

I was amused that he corrected himself but got it wrong.  Slow Friday here in NH

DawgNole
DawgNole

@AnsweredTHIS

You didn't just add another IF in there, did you?

Oh, well, at least you admit you're a homer. Now, if we can just get the Braves' and Hawks' announcers to do the same . . . .

JSSN
JSSN

@RangeRover

You don't accept when people tell you that hiring Bobby Petrino and the phony piety on every decision is reason enough. They still get caught with weed, DUIs, assaults, say detestable things just like everyone else. I definitely did not need to expose my family, friends, or co-workers to what I witnessed post-game 11-26-2006. There was no place for the behavior (especially the language) of Falcons fans that day. I was already on the fence about renewing. Petrino did me a huge favor! If he was not just side of pond scum, I'd send him a thank you note!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@JSSN @DawgNole

Yeah, I saw that thing. It's a fairly new toy for him on the blogs. We'll see once UGA kicks off whether or not he can resist endlessly soiling his pants with each of his mind-numbing posts on the AJC blogs for another season. It may depend on whether or not he can stomach the absence of hits on his little playhouse.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@JSSN

And for the record I'm not overly impressed with Arthur Blank and certainly not naive about his business skills, or lack thereof.

Bernie Marcus was the visionary and true leader that guided Home Depot to dominance; Blank, as CFO before Bernie moved on, road his coattail to great wealth.  The handling of Reeves, the coddling of Vick (wheelchair), the hiring of Mora and Petrino, two low character guys, exemplify this lack of leadership skill.  Blank is a lucky rich guy!

However, again, I think the hiring of Smith and TD proved that even he can improve, and least in the character hiring department.


RangeRover
RangeRover

@JSSN

Well, we agree on Petrino, but I think Blank got it right--at least character-wise--replacing him with Smith and hiring TD.

Perhaps you need to forgive and move on...

JSSN
JSSN

@RangeRover

Smith hired and retained Jeff Fish, so much for character. I won't bring up that calling a timeout intentionally  when he didn't have one thing. Situational character reflex?