In advance of the Falcons-Chiefs preseason game tonight at the Georgia Dome, Joel Thorman of SB Nation Kansas City asked me for my thoughts on the Falcons' biggest strength and biggest weakness. My response:
Our biggest strength is likely to be our interior defense.
Penetrating defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux is quite possibly the best player on our team, or at least the most underrated -- he led all NFL tackles in sacks last year and is a rock against the run.
We have a nice crop of young guys competing for snaps alongside him, including "redshirt freshman" first-rounder Peria Jerry. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has promised more big plays after narrowly missing the Pro Bowl last year, and head coach Mike Smith named free safety Thomas DeCoud the team's 2009 defensive MVP.
The biggest uncertainty is -- and I'm not trying to be cute here -- our exterior defense.
Does John Abraham still have a double-sack season in him, and can Kroy Biermann pick up the slack if not? Can we squeeze two starting linebacker spots out of over-the-hill Mike Peterson, mediocre Stephen Nicholas, and inexperienced Sean Weatherspoon? Will we get 2004 Dunta Robinson or 2008 Dunta Robinson -- and can anybody take ownership of the other starting corner position?
As long as the offensive line stays healthy (KNOCK ON WOOD), we'll be able to put up points on anybody, but it'll take a complete, sideline-to-sideline defense to have a successful season.
Squishy on the outside, solid on the inside. But I should probably explain that last line: if we'll be able to put up points on anybody, wouldn't that make our offense our biggest strength?
Well, it feels silly to say something like "Our biggest strength is our entire offense." And it's hard to point out a specific unit of the 2010 Falcons offense and call it a major strength. It simply looks to be pretty good across the board.
Matt Ryan is very good, but not quite great. Michael Turner at full strength is excellent, but his backups are either unreliable (Jerious Norwood) or average (Jason Snelling).
Roddy White is a few steps shy of elite and Tony Gonzalez may still be our best offensive player, but the rest of the receiving corps is a bundle of newborn question marks and creaky old guys. The offensive line has blocked well for the run and well for the pass, but seemingly never on the same day.
That's my story.