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NFL PREVIEWS: Atlanta Falcons

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

 
   
 

Atlanta

Champs or chumps: This is a team on the rise. Atlanta scored 30 or more points in eight of its 16 regular season games last season, then blasted Green Bay 27-7 at Lambeau Field in the playoffs. Atlanta is the popular pick of many prognosticators to win the NFC South this time around. Not so fast. The have the talent to win the division, but there is a major obstacle in their path. Tampa Bay didn¿t just beat the in two meetings last season, they dominated them by a combined score of 54-16. If Atlanta shows it has what it takes to defeat the defending world champions in 2003, it will compete for the title. If the fail to make strides against the , their championship push will have to wait until next year. Reasons for hope: Quarterback . His presence has electrified a mediocre franchise. His unconventional combination of skills has frustrated opponents and convinced fans they have seen the future of the position. That may be a bit grandiose. The reason: there is no one on the horizon who resembles Vick in attitude, arm strength or tackle-dodging form. Besides, the don¿t really care about his impact on the position. All they care about is his impact on the team, and that is special. Vick is an offensive chameleon. Drop an extra defender back into zone coverage and confuse Vick with a variety of coverages, and he will run. Move an extra defender into the box and pinch his running lanes, and Vick will throw deep. Vick ran for 777 yards last season, the third highest total for a quarterback in NFL history. Yet he threw for 200 or more yards in five of his final eight games once defenses began to stack against the run. Don¿t get too excited: The are a good defense. They are not a great one or a deep one. Atlanta can¿t afford any injuries on this side of the ball. is a Pro Bowl linebacker who is always around the ball. is an active defensive end who is good for 10 or so sacks. Cornerback has been a very good player for a long time, but there are signs that he¿s slowing down with age. The ranked 23rd against the run last season, allowing nearly 130 yards a game, and that number must improve. Atlanta has gotten bigger in the secondary, but it remains to be seen if they have gotten better.
Meet the 2003
Projected offensive lineup
WR Peerless Price
LT Bob Whitfield
LG Travis Claridge
C Roberto Garza
RG Kynan Forney
RT Todd Weiner
TE Alge Crumpler
WR Brian Finneran
QB Michael Vick
RB Warrick Dunn
FB George Layne

Projected defensive lineup
LE Patrick Kerney
NG Ellis Johnson
RE Brady Smith
OLB Matt Stewart
ILB Chris Draft
ILB Keith Brooking
OLB Sam Rogers
CB Ray Buchanan
CB Tyrone Williams
SS Cory Hall
FS Keion Carpenter

Projected special teams lineup
K Jay Feely
P Chris Mohr
KR MarTay Jenkins
PR Allen Rossum
LS Derek Rackley

Scout's take on the Falcons
"Dan Reeves knows how to win football games and Wade Phillips is one of the best at putting together a productive defense. The Falcons staff is one of the more underrated in the league."
— Scouting insider Brian DeLucia

More on the Falcons
  • Falcons team page
  • Roster | Depth chart
  • Schedule | NFL on FOX schedule
  • NFL fantasy news
  • Hello, my name is: . This could be the player who brings the offense into perfect balance and makes it as potent and efficient as any in the league. Atlanta lacked a speed receiver to compliment Vick¿s strong arm and spread the defense. Price gives them that. He caught 94 passes for 1,252 yards and nine touchdowns in Buffalo last season. Some question if he has the temperament to be the primary receiver — held that distinction with the . But with , a solid, underappreciated possession receiver next to him, that shouldn¿t be a concern. Revolving door: Price is the biggest addition. But free-agent receiver should also help jazz up the passing game with his speed and make the team¿s three-receiver sets more dangerous than they have been in recent years. Safety and cornerbacks and Tod McBride, other free-agent acquisitions, upgrade a secondary that was average at best. Look for Hall and Williams to start. It will be hard for Atlanta to replace fullback , who retired. and fourth-round pick will get the chance to take his place. Ones to watch: The won¿t have to wait long to see how they measure up to the best. Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay on Sept. 21 then play them again in Florida on Dec. 20. Expect plenty of offensive fireworks on Oct. 13 when Atlanta takes on St. Louis in a Monday night game. What may be the most anticipated quarterback matchup of the season comes on Nov. 2 when Vick and the take on and the Philadelphia . The forecast: This franchise is a tribute to mediocrity. The proof: Atlanta has failed to break .500 in consecutive seasons in 37 years. That sobering string should end in 2003. The have playoff talent and proved last year they are ready for prime time. That doesn¿t mean a return trip to the postseason is assured. What happened in the AFC East last season, where three teams tied for the division title and only one advanced to the playoffs due to tiebreakers, could apply here. Getting hammered by Tampa Bay in two games again this season might be enough to keep the on the outside looking in.
    Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Eagles, Michael Vick, Brian Finneran, Keith Brooking, Cory Hall, Donovan McNabb, Justin Griffith

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