Throughout the offseason, I will be fielding your questions about all things Falcons and trying to give you the best answers I can. If you would like to submit a question to be included in the Friday Mailbag, check out my profile on Formspring.me. If you asked a question this week and don't see the answer below, fear not. They may appear in future mailbag posts.
Question: I think it's just disrespectful to even consider drafting a TE when you have a future Hall-of-Fame TE on your team who still plays at a high level. I know this upcoming season is probably his last but not wait until the 2013 season to draft a TE?
Answer: I wouldn't go so far as to say it's disrespectful, and I'm positive Tony Gonzalez wouldn't view it as a sign of disrespect if the Falcons did, indeed, draft a tight end in April. The NFL is a business, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff's job is to solidify the future of the team by identifying where holes may be during any particular offseason and acting accordingly. Gonzalez said recently that this season will be his last. I'll just say that he's said that just about every year recently. If this time is, indeed, for good, then it would serve the Falcons well to identify his heir apparent and bring him in this offseason to have a chance to learn under the future Hall-of-Famer. Who better to learn under than the best, right? Any rookie would be able to soak up so much information from Gonzalez in just a year's time that, in my estimation, it might advance his progress quicker than if he didn't have that tutelage. If you look around, the teams that have sustainability in a league full of parity are the ones who draft with the anticipation of a need and not the urgency of a need. That's similar to why we drafted Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson and Garrett Reynolds. Their positions weren't a need when they were selected, but they are now. And now that they have a few years under their belts, it's a huge plus because they have experience that a rookie wouldn't have, which is essentially what you'd end up with if you drafted with urgency instead of anticipation.
Question: In recent months we've seen changes in coaching positions. What are we doing to improve the strength and conditioning of our offensive line? If there was one thing I took away from the 2011 season, it was that we couldn't convert on fourth-and-inches.
Answer: I think that's a topic that's on a lot of fans' minds when it comes to the offensive front. Now, fourth downs are always going to look better or worse in hindsight. If you convert, you're a genius. If you fail, everything from the decision to go for it to the play call will be scrutinized over and over. The fact of the matter is, the Falcons — on several occasions in 2011 — were not able to convert a first down in fourth-and-short situations, and certainly, that's an issue that the coaching staff will work on figuring out before the team hits the field for training camp. From looking at the plays in question, I'm not so sure it's a strength and conditioning problem. Coach Jeff Fish and his staff do an incredible job in making sure that all the Falcons are in top shape and able to perform their best on gameday. Coach Smith said in his postseason press conference that the problems with the fourth-and-short plays came down to execution, and that ends up being the reason for the failure and not strength and conditioning. Smith and offensive line coach Pat Hill are focused on making sure that execution won't be an issue in 2013.
Question: Will the Falcons develop Jacquizz Rodgers into another feature running back to play behind Michael Turner? He's shown flashes of brilliance last year, but I'm concerned his size may affect him against some of the larger defenses in the league.
Answer: There's no doubt that Jacquizz Rodgers had a great rookie season, all things considered. Steadily throughout the season, you could just see Rodgers' progress increasing, and that's what you like to see out of first-year players. He seems to have adjusted to the game speed very well and the versatility he offers is truly amazing. If you missed him on special teams, you missed one of his many, many talents. Anyway, Rodgers will continue to develop, but there doesn't seem to be any sign that he'd be an every-down back like Michael Turner. At least, not yet. Rodgers was drafted to be the change-of-pace back the Falcons needed, and in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's system, we could see a rise in the number of snaps he gets, particularly when it comes to the screen game Koetter will institute. But for right now, Rodgers seems to be fitting into the mold of a Darren Sproles, who comes in for situations where speed and quickness are needed. Honestly, it's an exciting one-two punch to think about with Turner's bruising style of running and perhaps an increase in the number of touches Rodgers gets in 2012.
Question: My son told me John Abraham may be leaving the Falcons, and maybe not his decision. Any truth to that rumor?
Answer: As much as I love the free agency and Draft periods of the NFL offseason, the huge downside is all the different information that we're bombarded with from players, agents and organizations. Especially with today's age of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it can be enough to drive you batty. The Falcons currently have 17 players that are slated to become free agents March 13 and work is being done to figure out who stays and who goes. With Abraham being one of the bigger names among those 17, it's only natural that he be subject to rumors and conjecture. The Falcons have been in close contact with Abraham's agent and they'd like to bring back as many key contributors as possible.
Question: Do you think the Falcons will get Randy Moss or Peyton Manning?