There has been a lot of excitement in Atlanta surrounding the Falcons thus far during training camp, and for good reasons. Head Coach Mike Smith is heading into his third season, and Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, and Sam Baker are as well. Those players were the first three draft choices ever made by Coach Smith and Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and are going to be the guys that are going to take this team to where they want to go. The third season is usually when players start to feel the most comfortable, play more consistently, and emerge as elite players.
Since taking over in Atlanta, Smith and Dimitroff have brought in character guys that are good both on and off the field, surrounded Matt Ryan with some explosive athletes, and have stockpiled talent through the draft. A big part of the Falcons downfall last year was that their defense couldn’t stop the passing game. So they went out and signed a shutdown corner, in Dunta Robinson, and drafted a versatile athlete, in Sean Weatherspoon, to play linebacker. The Falcons have enough talent to catch the Saints and this is a team that is very capable of putting together another eleven or twelve-win season and a playoff spot.
Mike Smith joined WQXI in Atlanta to talk about his thoughts on whether this has to be the year for the young veterans to step up and start playing among the elite in the NFL, the notion that the Falcons 1st round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon loves to play football, and his thoughts on their schedule this year and playing division games late in the season.
His thoughts on whether this has to be the year for the young veterans to step up and start playing among the elite in the NFL:
“I think you are right. When you talk about our young players, they maybe young in terms of chronological age but we have a number of players that have gotten a lot of good experience over the last two years. In year one, five of our draft picks were starters on opening day, when you count Harry Douglas as our nickel receiver. Those are the guys moving forward are going to be the guys that are going to take this team to where we want it to be and that group of guys will continue to get better and better. We are talking from the very beginning that it is about sustainability not the ability of your players, it is the ability to sustain it and I think these guys are going to be the guys to take us to where we want to be.”
Whether having role players that outperform expectations is what makes a team great:
“I don’t think there is any doubt. You have got a core group of guys usually on the 53-man roster, you have got your 10-12 guys that are pretty much bonafide and know that they are players. Then there is going to be another 10-12 guys that you know that year in and year out you are going to get consistent play and then the guys that are on the second half of that roster are the ones that you need to come step up and play. The guys that you mentioned Coy Wire, was a free agent acquisition that was out of the league for two years. Kroy Biermann, a 5th round draft pick that has 7 sacks in his first two seasons. Brent Grimes was a free agent that bounced around in NFL Europe from Shippensburg. You throw in the Tyson Claybo’s and the Harney Dahl’s; you know the story that they have had to take and the road that they have had to take to the NFL. I think you have got to have a very good mix and I think that is the one thing that Thomas Dimitroff does an outstanding job at how he puts our roster together with that mixture. He is very forward-thinking and knows that it is forever changing and you have got to be able to improvise and adjust your roster and we have been able to add the right kind of guys in these first two seasons.”
On the notion that the Falcons 1st round draft pick, Sean Weatherspoon loves to play football:
“Sean does, we saw that in his tape at the University of Missouri and we also saw that at the Senior Bowl and Sean is going to play right on the line and that is what we need to have. He will fit in very, very well with the guys that we have. He had a little misunderstanding about what ‘thud’ meant yesterday but I know that Brian Van Gorder talked to him, I talked to him, and of course some of those guys in the red jerseys talked to him as well and he understands the tempo that we need to have in our practices and when we are in ‘thud’ and what ‘thud’ means and when we are going full-speed and when we are tagging off. I don’t think there is going to be an issue with that. ‘Spoon is a very compliant player and likes to please and very passionate. I think it was a good way to start it and I think it was a good lesson for everybody.”
His thoughts on their schedule this year and playing division games late in the season:
“Yep it is. I think what they tried to do is make sure this year, as you look at the overall NFL schedule, there are going to be a lot of division games at the end of the season to hopefully make all the games meaningful and, again, your division opponents are the most important ones. As we look way, way down the road, the end of the season is going to probably affect who is going to win the division and who is going to have an opportunity to play.”
Tags: 2010 NFL Football, 3rd year Head Coach, Atlanta Falcons, defensive background, Falcons Head Coach, former Jaguars defensive coordinator, Head Coach, Matt Ryan, Michael Jenkins, Michael Turner, Mike Smith, NFC South, Roddy White, Thomas Dimitroff, young talented team in Atlanta