Behind Enemy lines — Atlanta, Part II

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

Q: The Falcons could start two rookies on defense this year — DE Jamaal Anderson and CB Chris Houston. Who will have the steeper learning curve?

MP: It'll be Houston. Zimmer can put Anderson in a position to emphasize his pass-rushing skills and limit his liabilities against the run. Houston will likely take over for Jimmy Williams at right corner, where Williams was a disappointment. Zimmer's scheme calls for plenty of one-on-one coverage, and offenses will want to pick on him.

BT: Houston. He'll have to get used to the speed and more refined techniques that the pro receivers possess. That, magnified with the increased speed of the game, will make it harder for a cornerback than a defensive end to adjust to the next level.

Q: Gauge the impact LB Keith Brooking could have as the Falcons move him from the weak side to the middle?

MP: Zimmer likes speedy middle linebackers, so Brooking's move is not so surprising. He has the speed and ability to pursue that Zimmer wants. But he's going to absorb more contact, and if he gets used to that quickly, he'll adjust just fine.

BT: Brooking, a Pro Bowler from 2001-2005, is looking to return to Hawaii in 2008. He's been among, if not the team leader in tackles since 2001. Brooking's speed and instincts at MLB will make the defense stronger.

Q: What was the Falcons' best offseason move (includes trades, free agency, draft, coaching changes, etc…)?

MP: I'd have to say their draft. I expect Anderson, guard Justin Blalock and Houston to all be in the starting lineup by midseason. Fourth-round pick Stephen Nicholas can eventually be a starter, too.

BT: The best move was signing FB Ovie Mughelli. One of the bases of Petrino's offensive philosophy is a power running game and there aren't many better than Mughelli.

Q: What was the Falcons' worst offseason move (includes trades, free agency, draft, coaching changes, etc…)?

MP: The veterans they lost are a bit alarming. They'll miss defensive end Patrick Kerney, fullback Justin Griffith and cornerback Jason Webster. Griffith was an unsung hero in the Falcons' win over Tampa Bay last year at Raymond James Stadium.

BT: There's no question, the worst offseason move for the Falcons was trading QB Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans. The Texans hope Schaub is the next QB that will thrive with a change of scenery. He probably would not had a shot to start regularly with the Falcons, but he should have.

Q: Finally, how much will the Falcons miss Matt Schaub, and did they get enough for the young quarterback?

MP: I think it's a wash. I think Vick has reached his ceiling as a player. He looks to me like he'll be nothing more than a mid-range starter. I think Schaub has a lot of potential, and he'll enjoy some success in Houston. But he has the same problem as Vick. There isn't enough talent surrounding Schaub in Houston. The Falcons got enough out of that trade to soften the blow if Schaub blossoms.

BT: The Falcons probably won't miss Schaub, as he was a backup quarterback that didn't see the field very often. Vick is still clearly their guy, and considering that the Falcons received two extra second round picks and moved up in the first round of this past draft, they got great value for a player that probably would have never played much for them.

Did you miss the first part of this article? Don't worry. Click here to see Part One.

Next week: Carolina


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