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Offseason progress reports: Atlanta Falcons

MJD
Shutdown Corner

It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Atlanta Falcons.

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Free agents lost: LB Michael Boley(notes), LB Keith Brooking(notes), DB Domonique Foxworth(notes), DT Grady Jackson(notes), S Lawyer Milloy(notes)

Free agents gained: LB Mike Peterson(notes), C Brett Romberg(notes)

Added via trade: TE Tony Gonzalez(notes)

Lost via trade: WR Laurent Robinson(notes)

Drafted: DT Peria Jerry(notes), S William Moore(notes), CB Christopher Owens(notes), DE Lawrence Sidbury(notes) Jr., CB William Middleton(notes), OT Garrett Reynolds(notes), LB Spencer Adkins(notes), DT Vance Walker(notes)

For maybe the first offseason since 2000, you can think of the Atlanta Falcons without thinking about Michael Vick(notes). Even last year, when it was clear that Vick would never again be a Falcon, the story was about how Matt Ryan(notes) had to erase the memory of Vick, and how the cloud of Vick still hung over the organization. No more.

Because Matt Ryan, against all odds, did erase the memory of Vick. Or at least shoved it way, way, way into the background. It doesn't even feel like thinking about the same team anymore. Vick is no longer a problem ... he's no longer anything, really, except something for which the Falcons might eventually get a late-round draft pick.

You think about the Falcons right now, and you think about Ryan, the resurgence, the addition on Tony Gonzalez, the emergence of Roddy White(notes), and the superhuman work done by head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff. It's virtually all excitement and upside. Few teams will have the kind of good vibes the Falcons give off in 2009.

Look closer, though, and there are questions. The biggest one, as it relates to the transition from 2008 to 2009 is defense. Yes, they drafted well on defense, and Peria Jerry and William Moore could both be immediate starters. But I don't know if that's enough to offset the substantial losses they took on that side of the ball. Veteran linebackers Michael Boley and Keith Brooking said goodbye, Grady Jackson went off to Detroit, and for some reason, Domonique Foxworth, maybe the team's best corner, was allowed to walk. The Falcons will be asking a lot of young players on defense in 2009.

Progress: What we're looking at here is almost half of a starting defense being replaced. Of course, maybe that's a good thing, since the Falcons were 24th in the league last year in yards allowed per game. Time will tell. I think any defensive problems, though, are made up for by the continued maturation of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner(notes), as well as the addition of Gonzalez. To play it conservatively ...

Plus/Minus 0 wins. 11-5 last year, 11-5 this year.

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