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Falcons' offense won't be complex

Power running scheme isn't going to try to fool defenses


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 04/17/08


Flowery Branch Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli harkened back to roughly a year ago, when the talk was about an offensive genius of a coach. There was even more talk about how Bobby Petrino's system would be unstoppable because of the multitude of options per play.

Mughelli was signed to the biggest free-agent contract ever awarded to a fullback (six years, $18 million) to help make the masterpiece a classic. When the actual project was unveiled, Mughelli typically found himself on the sideline.

these great schemes," Mughelli said Wednesday on the final day of Atlanta's minicamp. "It's going to be about the players going out to play."

New coach Mike Smith replaced Petrino and called on former Buffalo head coach and former Pittsburgh and Miami offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to run the offense.

The Falcons will return to the grass roots of elementary football: Line up, block the man in front of you and create room for the high-priced running back (Michael Turner). Then do it again. And again. And again.

Throwing the ball will be referred to as The Option.

"We're going to really play smash-mouth football, and when the opportunity to pass presents itself, we're going to take advantage of it," quarterback Chris Redman said.

The basics of Mularkey's offense will look like this most of the time: Dual tight ends or an H-back, a fullback, two wide receivers and 10 players who spend nights dreaming of ram-rodding opposing players. The quarterback is excused.

This is not a scheme for those weak in the knees, heart or pectorals. That's why the Falcons signed a pile-moving running back (Turner), a pile-moving tight end (Ben Hartsock) and plan to stockpile nasty-temperament linemen in the April 26-27 draft (another tight end likely will be added, too).

The physical mentality Mularkey wants is already taking shape. In the third and final day of minicamp Wednesday, two fights broke out.

"It's gotten physical already we got the defense [ticked] off," Mughelli said. "I've been on offenses, even in college, where the offense isn't as physical as the defense. We'd be working on getting the X's and O's right while the defense was flying around and having fun, being physical. I think the offense will match the defense, physically."

The talk now is optimistic, but there's no getting past the reality that the Falcons are starting from scratch after parting with tailback Warrick Dunn, tight end Alge Crumpler and left tackle Wayne Gandy. This will mark the second season without quarterback Michael Vick. Right tackle Todd Weiner is recovering from major knee surgery, and his return by the start of the season is questionable.

In all, up to six positions could have new starters.

The two-tight-end sets with a fullback might not be ideal formations, but with concerns along the offensive front, extra blockers are necessary. There will be spread sets and tricks and gimmicks. Still, the premise will be simple.

"It's going to be like playing backyard football," said second-year tight end Martrez Milner, who also will be used as an H-back.

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