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Falcons preview: Beginning massive rebuilding project

By Ira Miller | Special to NFL.com

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

New coach Mike Smith is bringing a fresh attitude to Atlanta.

NFC South preview:

Bucs: Offense aging | Falcons: Rebuilding project | Panthers: Extreme makeover | Saints: Emphasis on defense

It was a quiet summer at the Falcons' training camp: Unfortunately for the Falcons, it also promises to be a quiet season.

Atlanta is beginning a massive rebuilding job. Fallout from the revelations of Michael Vick's dog-fighting ring and rookie pro head coach, Bobby Petrino, walking out on the team and announcing it in a memo to players with three games to go last season, forced the team to start over.

2008 forecast

Vic Carucci: Rookie Matt Ryan is in for a long season of growing pains. Michael Turner's running will help, but first-year coach Mike Smith has his hands full as an enormous rebuilding process begins. Prediction: 3-13

Thomas George: Wait 'till next year ... or the year after ... or the year after ... Prediction: 3-13

Pat Kirwan: This is a rebuilding project and will take time. The quarterback is a rookie and the team didn't inject enough talent into its 29th-ranked defense. The Falcons repeat their 2008 record. Prediction: 3-13

Gil Brandt: After a disastrous 2007 season, the team made some very good additions via draft and free agency. But it's hard to begin such a major team overhaul without some growing pains. Prediction: 3-13

» Falcons' 2008 schedule

Fantasy file

Riser: Michael Turner

Finally out of LaDainian Tomlinson's shadow, Turner and has a chance to prove his worth as an NFL starter. He's a perfect fit for the power running game of OC Mike Mularkey.

Faller: Chris Redman

Matt Ryan is the most talented quarterback in Atlanta and could start the regular season atop the depth chart. That would mean no more than a reserve role for Redman in 2008.

» Fantasy draft kit | More fantasy

Arthur Blank, the Falcons' owner, wants his team to be in the spotlight, but not in the way it was. So, after the troubles, Blank opted for a low-key coach, hiring defensive coordinator Mike Smith from Jacksonville. Smith is making it his mission to change the culture of the organization.

The Falcons will try to rebuild with youth. Matt Ryan, the team's first-round draft choice, will be the starting quarterback. Chris Redman, who was selling insurance at this time last year, will be the backup.

At least four other rookies -- wide receiver Harry Douglas, left tackle Sam Baker, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and cornerback Chevis Jackson -- are ticketed for significant and perhaps starting roles. All were drafted in the first three rounds, among the first 84 picks. Undrafted rookie Brent Grimes also is in the mix to replace cornerback DeAngelo Hall, a sometimes disruptive force both for and against the Falcons, who was traded to Oakland.

Smith's offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, will lean heavily on the running game with Michael Turner, the former backup to LaDainian Tomlinson who signed in free agency. Turner will not have as good an offensive line with the Falcons as he did with the Chargers, but Atlanta is expected to use the tight end more in the running game to provide blocking help.

On the hot seat

Wide receiver Roddy White is considered by some to be the Falcons' best player, and he will need to live up to that with all the youth around him. With the offense depending on a running game and having an inexperienced quarterback, White will have to make the most of what opportunities he is given in the passing game.

Difference-maker

Rookie wide receivers rarely make an impact, but the Falcons believe that third-round pick Harry Douglas could be an exception. In camp, he showed great hands and an understanding of route-running and getting open. He is expected to play a lot as a slot receiver.

Hard road to hoe

When you're coming off a 4-12 season, there's no easy stretch on the schedule. But between September 28 and November 2, the Falcons will play four of five on the road including trips to Carolina, Green Bay and Philadelphia.

Falcons will be better than you think if ...

They can run the ball and hang onto it to keep their defense off the field. That would mean Michael Turner proving he can play in a full-time role as successfully as he did backing up LaDainian Tomlinson.

Falcons will be worse than you think if ...

The running game is not as good as they hope or the run defense is not significantly better than it was last year.

Divisions: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

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At least we have three here who are predicting more than one win. B)

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Not horrible, but not exactly accurate either....

Roddy is not on the proverbial hot seat this year... It's Jamaal Anderson, with an honourable mention to Adam Jennings. No player has been critiqued and coached more, sans Matt Ryan, than Anderson and it's high time he delivered on that lofty draft status.

Roddy had his turn on the hot seat last year and delivered. Hopefully, by season's end, we can say the same for Jamaal. With great ability, comes great expectations...

Also, Brent Grimes was an undrafted rookie last year--not this year. Too many writers get that wrong.

Difference maker will be Matt Ryan. His progression will largely determine how successful we are. We have enough surrounding talent to make a push this year. Just as sharp QB play was the determining factor in how competitive CLE was last year, the same should hold true for ATL. There are blueprints for success all around the NFL from year to year.

One thing I can agree on is that yes, we will be better if the running game is as good as we HOPE it can be, and allows the defense to see as little time on the field as possible. We have weaknesses on defense...it's up to the offense to give opposing teams as few chances as possible to find and exploit them.

Just My Thoughts

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What sweet revenge it will be when we shock the NFL world with how well we do this season.

What will our record be ???

Nobody knows !!! That's the point. That's what is so interesting.

But, the egos of the national media "talking heads" will not allow themselves to just admit that they............and.................no one else KNOWS !!!!!!

I was taught at a very early age to..............."Never assume anything. Anything".

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None of these experts really spend the time needed to give a worthy analysis of what this team is like. I think Brandt summed it up the best by sayiong they did good in obtaining talen in the offseason , but they all missed on the win loss records. Does anyont thing this team is worse than last year? They won 4 games and should have won 6 if it were not for the bone headed move to sign Prater as the PK. I feel not only is this team better talent wise, but way more focused that last year. They all know what the coaching staff wants and expects. For any team, that is the biggest stumbling block. this team will win more than 3 games this season.

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None of these experts really spend the time needed to give a worthy analysis of what this team is like. I think Brandt summed it up the best by sayiong they did good in obtaining talen in the offseason , but they all missed on the win loss records. Does anyont thing this team is worse than last year? They won 4 games and should have won 6 if it were not for the bone headed move to sign Prater as the PK. I feel not only is this team better talent wise, but way more focused that last year. They all know what the coaching staff wants and expects. For any team, that is the biggest stumbling block. this team will win more than 3 games this season.

We should win more than 4 games off strengh of schedule alone...

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As I said in another thread talking about the same article. The people are on crack

3-13? We won 4 games last year, we were dealing with the Vick issue, a horrible coach, a round robin QB position and a lot of injuries on o-line. Yet we still won more than 3 games

This year we looked to be much improved even if just you take away all the Vick crap and add in our new NFL seasoned coaching staff.

But yet these so called experts have us losing more games than last year?

7-9 is the realistic outcome of this season

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Roddy White on the hot seat? please.

1 season does not make you a superstar. I'd agree that Roddy is somewhat on a hot seat. He doesn't necessarily need the numbers he put up last year, but he does need to be as effective and make the most out of opportunities that he will get this year. He needs to prove consistency now that he's proved he can play at this level.

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1 season does not make you a superstar. I'd agree that Roddy is somewhat on a hot seat. He doesn't necessarily need the numbers he put up last year, but he does need to be as effective and make the most out of opportunities that he will get this year. He needs to prove consistency now that he's proved he can play at this level.

Ok, but that can be said for ninety percent of the players in the NFL, let alone our roster. The hot seat is reserved for those whose situation has become more "now or never."

Not really, "ok, now can you be consistent and become a superstar?" I believe why most ppl are agreeing that it was a bit of a reach to name a player on the verge of stardom...

That's why Jamaal Anderson would have received my vote...should he underperform another year, he may not get another opportuntity to start here...

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