Behind enemy lines — Atlanta

In the first of a four-part series leading up to training camp, BucsBlitz.com Editor Matthew Postins and PantherInsider.com's Brad Thomas provide analysis for 10 pertinent questions facing each team in the NFC South. This week, it's the Atlanta Falcons. Part 2 of this article will appear on Tuesday.

Q: On the field, Michael Vick remains a player that most believe hasn't reached his potential. Will the new head coach — Bobby Petrino — and his offensive alterations to a vertical passing game and power running game favor Vick or work against him?

MP: One would think that Petrino's offense — based on power running and the vertical passing game — would be a good fit for Vick. Scouts don't debate Vick's arm strength. It's his accuracy scouts have always railed against (just 53.8 percent for his career). Petrino works wonders with quarterbacks and the offense plays to some of Vick's strengths, but I don't see his completion percentage improving that much or the passing game being that much more productive.

BT: The new offense will not favor him. Vick is not an accurate passer, and when forced to be a pocket quarterback he often tends to make mistakes. Vick is most dangerous when he rolls out and the defense doesn't know if he's going to run or throw. It seems that Petrino's offense is not suited for their current personnel.

Q: Off the field, how much will the current investigation in his possible involvement in dog fighting affect his focus? Or more to the point, will it affect his availability to the Falcons?

MP: That all depends on how "involved" Vick was in dog fighting. So far, the case seems to have cooled and no tangible information has come forward linking Vick to the underground "sport." There doesn't appear to be enough information to take him to court at this time, but the whole affair stands to be a season-long distraction if it isn't put to bed before the regular season.

BT: The investigation has stalled; there hasn't been any news reported, (or at least leaked) in the last few weeks. I don't think the investigation will affect his on-field focus, and I don't believe that there will be any hindrance due to legal obligations on his playing on each Sunday during the season.

Q: At 32 years old, will Warrick Dunn have another 1,000-year season in 2007, or will Jerious Norwood slowly wrestle carries away from Dunn?

MP: I'd have to say no on Dunn passing 1,000 yards again. History is not kind to 32-year-old backs, in terms of production. In fact, 32-year-old backs have averaged just 680 yards, plus only 10.7 percent of them reach 1,000 yards. The Falcons will probably give Jerious Norwood more carries to keep Dunn fresh, but they'll see by midseason that Norwood is the better full-time option.

BT: Norwood will be the bell cow for the Falcons, with Dunn being phased out over the upcoming season. I foresee Dunn being used mainly on third downs, and no, I don't think he comes close to rushing for 1,000 yards this season.

Q: The Falcons have spent high draft picks recently trying to find Vick a solid, young receiver. But the only solid receiver in the passing game is Alge Crumpler. Is Joe Horn going to help them overcome that?

MP: The development of Roddy White and Michael Jenkins is probably the most disappointing part of the Falcons' recent drafts. Neither has shown they're ready to be the No. 1 receiver. Horn will bring professionalism to the position and a great example for the two youngsters to follow. But, at 35, I would be concerned that Horn could break down physically. Remember — he missed six games last year due to hamstring maladies. I would say no.

BT: Horn gives the Falcons a solid leader to a receiving corps that has underperformed over the last several seasons. He's still a solid receiver, and will be looked to in the clutch to make big plays.

Q: What will have the bigger impact on DT Rod Coleman's and DE John Abraham's numbers this season — health or a more aggressive 4-3 scheme coached by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer?

MP: Having been around Zimmer's defenses when I lived in Dallas, I'm interested to see how his unit performs this season. Zimmer has a great understanding of how to get solid, aggressive play out of the scheme. He also takes advantage of his players' strengths. That said, the return to health of Coleman and Abraham is more important than the scheme. They're great fits for the scheme, but there's not much depth behind them.

BT: Health is the key factor. If Abraham and Coleman can stay healthy, the Falcons' defense as a whole could be very dangerous to opposing offenses.

Want to see Part Two of this article? Click here for more analysis.


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