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Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Mailbag: Atlanta edition

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Again, sorry for having to delay the Atlanta and New Orleans mailbags yesterday, but we'll make up for it now. Fans of the Saints and Falcons really overloaded the mailbag last night and it was already pretty full.

Sorry that I can't answer every question. But I tried to select questions that represented what's on the mind of a lot of fans. Here's the Atlanta version of the mailbag and the New Orleans edition will follow this afternoon.

Adam in Columbia writes: Pat, I was looking at the rushing stats. today and realized that Turner has 282 touches through 12 games. I'm not very versed in the average touches a RB gets in a season, but that seems to be a lot. At the rate he is going he will have nearly 400 carries for the year. I know he is playing well this season, but do you think he can carry on at this rate?

Pat Yasinskas: Michael Turner leads the league in carries and Adrian Peterson (270 carries) is the only guy even close to him. Turner is averaging 23.5 carries a game. As a general rule, you don't want a running back coming anywhere close to 400 carries in a season, but Turner might be a bit of an exception. First, he's running very well and he's one of those backs who seems to get better as the game goes on. Second, after sitting behind LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego for four years, his legs are relatively fresh. But you do have to worry about him wearing down and I wouldn't want to see him getting this many carries every year because his career wouldn't last very long. I, like a lot of Atlanta fans, would like to see a little bit more of backup Jerious Norwood. He looks very good when he gets chances. Not sure the Falcons will make any dramatic changes the rest of this season, but I think they'd be wise to develop more balance between Turner and Norwood next season.


DaculaJones writes: My Falcon Kool-Aid! The Falcons are under the national radar. And that's a good thing. I'm not sure how this young team handles the added press coverage. They might start believing they are better than they are. The reason they are under the national radar is that they don't dominate enough stats. They just dominate their opponents. The youth of this Falcon team allows the stats to lie about how good this team really is. The youthful mistakes that allow teams that have been dominated for 3 qtrs. to gain mega stats at the end of games. We saw this in the New Orleans, Chicago & Green Bay games. And this past week where, without the turnovers, it would have been another game like Oakland. Only people who witness the Falcons can appreciate the team's growth week over week. It's more than just a happy story about coming back from last year. It's about a team on the steep rise through the NFL. They dominate games like only a few other NFL teams. The next 2 weeks will be a true test for this team. I like their chances to continue turning heads one game at a time.

Pat Yasinskas: Every point you make is very valid. The thing that impresses me most about the Falcons is they get better each week and they're setting themselves up to be good for a very long time.


Brian in Urbandale, IA writes: Pat, As previously published in a mailbag, I've moved from considering 'cautious optimism' to having actual 'cautious optimism' about the Falcons. I guess the next step is to consider having hope for the playoffs, considering how competitive the team has been even in their 4 losses. Is this reasonable considering their schedule? Is the play of the O-line the root of Matt Ryan's and the teams success and is that the reason for hope for the playoffs? Thanks, Pat,

Pat Yasinskas: Playoffs are no longer a pipedream. Pencil in a win against St. Louis and that gives the Falcons nine wins. Win one of the other three and they're 10-6 and probably in the playoffs. Win two of those other three and they're 11-5. That's not at all impossible.


Jay in Oklahoma City: Hey Pat,love your blog. Okay falcons question here.Not including the Big 3(Turner,Ryan,White)who are some names having career years for the falcons?

Pat Yasinskas: I think receiver Michael Jenkins and cornerback Chris Houston have really blossomed. Also, I know it's hard for a defensive tackle to really stand out, but coaches and scouts keep telling me that Jonathan Babineaux is having an outstanding season.


Zach in Atlanta writes: You'd think everyone would've figured out the Falcons were for real by now. How is NO favored this weekend? How are they still considered so far behind the Panthers after the beating they put on them? They've consistently improved with each and every week, which is more than most other teams can say. Isn't it about time people stop being surprised by the Falcons success? Shouldn't it be expected at this point?

Pat Yasinskas: No argument here. If there's anybody out there that doesn't take the Falcons seriously at this point, that's their problem.


Casey in Atlanta writes: Send a shout out to the Falcon's Strength and Conditioning unit: They've done a fine job, especially keeping Abraham healthy. But my question is: What do you see on film from Jamal Anderson? I think he is retarding the full potential of this team and would've thought that Coach Smith would've made a change by now. Do they place that much stock in 1st round picks? There has to be something fishy about this situation. The only thing I can think of is Coach Smith likes his mix of reserves on the line, who pay huge dividends when playing fresh in the fourth quarter. Bierman and Davis are simply better players than Anderson, so there must be something else, whether it be an issue of endurance or reps in practice. Andreson seems to just take up space and wear opposing tackles down for 3 quarters with his size, then the real rushers come in and finish the job. Please expound on this, because I need to know why backups are racking up more sacks in 1 game than he in his entire career. Thanks.

Pat Yasinskas: Consider it done on the strength and conditioning staff and the trainers, too. They've done a nice job. As far as Jamaal Anderson, I was defending him early on because I thought he would develop under Smith and the new coaching staff. But I really haven't seen any progress to speak of and that's been about the only disappointment with this team. He's still playing because Smith rotates his defensive linemen. But I think Anderson's future will be something they'll look at long and hard after the season. If you gave the Falcons a strong defensive end in Anderson's place, that line could be outstanding.


Kyle in Athe
ns:
Don't know if this is bad to wish a suspension on someone, but the Falcons are living right with 2 of their next 3 opponents being hit hardest with the suspension and not losing anyone. Do you think these suspensions help the falcons win a game that they may have not won before?

Pat Yasinskas: Not sure the suspensions will make that much difference to the Saints. Deuce McAllister hasn't been much of a factor and Charles Grant already was out with an injury. They lose Will Smith, but he wasn't having that great a season. However, I think the loss of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for Minnesota could have a huge impact. Minnesota's been a tough team to run on. Without those two, Michael Turner could go up to Minnesota and have a very big day.


Ellis in Longwood FL writes: Pat, When I read the AJC online and read the comments on some of the articles about the Falcons there is always 1 or 2 people who still think Vick made the Falcons who they are and think they will be back. My question is to you is why are people still all about Vick and thinking he will come back, or the Falcons will regret getting rid of him? And why are they always down on Ryan? I have only seen highlights of him and to me he looks really good.

Pat Yasinskas: To borrow a line from one of the "Vacation'' movies (can't remember which one), that's just crazy talk. Matt Ryan's the best rookie quarterback since Dan Marino and the $70 million contract the Falcons gave him shows they're fully committed to him. Also, owner Arthur Blank is on record as saying Vick won't be coming back to the Falcons. It's way past time to move on from this situation.