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Sunday, August 9, 2009
Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition

By Pat Yasinskas

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Let's start this off with a very big thank you to Atlanta Falcons fans.

Earlier Sunday I asked you to help me out by freshening up your mailbag questions because we were in a unique situation. Because of Roddy White's signing of a new contract Saturday night, a lot of the questions in the mailbag suddenly had become outdated.

As I begin writing this, it's been just about 90 minutes since I issued that plea. It's a summer Sunday afternoon and I'm sure you've got plenty of other things to do. But, in those 90 minutes, more than 100 questions have come in -- and they're still coming in.

One other note, I'll be flying to Atlanta on Monday night and will spend Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday with the Falcons.

So let's move on to the Atlanta mailbag and thanks again for the great questions.

FalconAdict in Rockmart, Ga. writes: With Gonzalez @ TE and now douglas no longer in the line up, does the falcons offense look better or worse than last year? What about the front four of the defense better or worse?

Pat Yasinskas: I'd have to say the offense is probably better. Sure, the loss of Harry Douglas hurts because I think the Falcons had big plans for him. But they've still got two good starters in White and Michael Jenkins. Marty Booker and Robert Ferguson have been productive players in this league and they could fit in nicely as backups. More than anything, though, the addition of tight end Tony Gonzalez should provide a huge boost. He might be the best pass-catching tight end ever. That creates a whole new dimension because the Falcons barely threw to their tight ends last year. As far as the defensive front, let me check it out in camp before offering an opinion. But Atlanta's got two quality linemen in end John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux and I've heard only good things about rookie tackle Peria Jerry. If Jamaal Anderson can give them anything at the end position, this could be a very good defensive line.

ATLJBO in Atlanta writes: Jonathan Babineaux Led all DT in tackles for loss and was 3rd overall in the NFL... I feel like this guy does not get his due respect. Chuck Smith said Jonathan Babineaux can be a 10 sack a season type DT.

Pat Yasinskas: Glad you brought that up because I think Babineaux is one of the most underrated players in the league. Scouts, coaches and other players will tell you that, too. Part of the reason he doesn't get a lot of attention is because that's the nature of his position. But the Falcons certainly recognize his value and that's why they gave him a contract extension last year. If the rest of the defensive line steps up, I suspect Babineaux will start to get some of the recognition he deserves.

Mike in Jasper, Ga. writes: Pat,is there any news on who is winning the race for the starting cornerback positions for the falcons?

Pat Yasinskas: Again, I'll have a better idea on this once I get up to Flowery Branch and see things in person. But what I've heard so far is the Falcons have been delighted with the play of Brent Grimes. Yes, guys like Chevis Jackson, Von Hutchins and Christopher Owens are still in the mix for the starting spot opposite Chris Houston. But all indications are that Grimes is the early leader.

Doug in Canada writes: Pat, what do you do with a guy like Jamaal Anderson? You are paying him the Big Bucks but no QB pressure. Because QB's know ABE is coming from the other side JA should have more Sacks? He is a good run stopper but now we have Lewis and Jerry for that? I think this experiment is over. Just my opinion.

Pat Yasinskas: Your opinion could turn out to be right. But the Falcons aren't ready to give up on Anderson just yet. The guy still has a lot of raw potential and the Falcons have been trying real hard to coach it out of him since the end of last season. Mike Smith has a great coaching staff and Anderson might suddenly show up. If he doesn't, Chauncey Davis and Lawrence Sidbury are waiting in the wings and they're not bad alternatives.

Dave in Atlanta writes: Pat, In the playoff loss to Arizona Lawyer Milloy made a crucial error when he was beat by Boldin (or Fitz, can't remember) on that wheel route out wide. Also, Brooking made a huge mistake on the 3rd and 16 pass to the TE that sealed the game. My question is that although the media seems to be harping on the fact that we lost two veterans on D, I believe we are better off without them. It is better to have a young player that might make a mental mistake, but still has the youthfulness and skills to make up for the lapse with speed and athleticism than an older player who reads the play correctly and cannot get to where he needs to be like Milloy. Toughts?

Pat Yasinskas: Ding, ding, ding. You nailed it, Dave. At least that's exactly what the Falcons were thinking when they let Milloy and Keith Brooking go. Grady Jackson, too, for that matter. The Falcons got the most out of their defense last year and in some cases they did it with patchwork. There's no doubt Milloy and Brooking were old. There's also no doubt that Mike Smith didn't have exactly the kind of personnel he wanted on defense. With another offseason, he's gotten a lot closer to having what he wants. Yes, the defense will be much younger and that could cause some early mistakes. But I think this year's defense can be much better in the long run.

Mark in Dallas writes: I really don't think that the falcons should have paid white that much money. I mean because of White's selfishness Harry Douglas got hurt. I was hoping that Thomas Dimtroff would treat white exactly how the patriots treat their holdouts. Isn't that why the patriots are always super bowl contenders every year?

Pat Yasinskas: Very valid points,
Mark. I'm hearing from a lot of Atlanta fans who think the Falcons overpaid White and I won't argue with that because I tend to agree. Handing $50 million to a guy who has only had two good years seems a little risky. Giving White a big deal when he only would have been a restricted free agent in 2010 also sets a bit of a dangerous precedent. But there are several flip sides that might explain why the Falcons went ahead and did the deal. First, contracts tend to get outdated in a hurry and the Falcons actually might have saved money because White might have commanded an even bigger deal with another good season. Sometimes, it ends up being best, in the long run, to overpay. Second -- and this might be the most important thing here -- ending White's holdout brings peace and harmony to camp. It also gives Matt Ryan his top weapon back and the Falcons obviously are very committed to making sure Ryan has everything he needs. Finally, you mention White's "selfishness." I'm not sure White's holdout was the reason Douglas got hurt, but it could have been a factor. Yes, you can view White's actions as being selfish, if you choose. But being selfish isn't necessarily a bad trait in a wide receiver. In fact, it's very common. Think about the game's top receivers -- Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Steve Smith (the Carolina Steve Smith), Chad Ochocinco to name a few -- they've all got a selfish streak. That can be a pain at times, but it's also part of what makes them so good.