Falcons' weakness: Defense

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson
Obviously, this is a very broad "weakness," but it is also a reflection of just how high I am on the Falcons' offense this year. I do admit I am not completely sold on Atlanta's offensive line, but there is some young talent there and it should continue to get better. Plus, the Falcons are stacked everywhere else on that side of the ball.

This probably is not the first time you have heard this, but Matt Ryan is on the cusp of being an elite quarterback -- one of the very best in the game -- in just his second year. The weapons he has to throw to are superb, and although tight end Tony Gonzalez may not duplicate his extraordinary numbers from a year ago in Kansas City, he will be an extremely welcomed addition who will open up more room for Roddy White and the Falcons' other wideouts. White is also a star. There are very few holes in his game and his effectiveness should only increase.

But, remember, this is a run-first offense. The Falcons attempted 560 rushes last year -- most of them with the bruising, yet explosive Michael Turner. But do not discount what Jerious Norwood brings to the table. Turner logged a ton of carries last season, and the Falcons should give Norwood more touches for the betterment of all. Turner can pound defenses into submission and both runners are a big play waiting to happen. This excellent run game also forces extra defenders into the box and enhances the chances of excellent coverage matchups for Ryan to exploit.

But the topic of this piece is Atlanta's defense, which is far from superb. However, from what was stated above, it doesn't need to be. In fact, ideally, this is a defense that should be playing with plenty of leads. It also plays home games on a fast track in a dome and its divisional matchups are all in warm weather locales.

So, what am I getting at? Even though general manager Tom Dimitroff comes from the Patriots' organization, this sounds eerily similar to the Colts' model of success since Peyton Manning arrived in the league.

John Abraham is perfect for this philosophy. He is a dominant edge-rusher. Actually, Jonathan Babineaux and first-rounder Peria Jerry are also upfield penetrating defensive tackles who can be a real handful when the Falcons have a substantial lead and their opponent is forced to throw.

But, outside of this group, the Falcons fall a little short on the defensive side of the ball. Certainly it is understandable, as Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith took over a truly desolate football team, but playmakers are still in short supply. Also, in a tough, grind-it-out type of football game, I can't say I am overly confident that the Falcons' defense can slug it out.

But, as I said up top, the Falcons are going to be a very difficult team to play against in 2009. Atlanta is one defensive end and probably two more back-seven playmakers away from being a truly elite team.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.