Ask the Expert: SI's Jim Trotter


Each week, Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts will sit down with an expert and talk about the Falcons, as well as what's going on in the rest of the league. This week's expert is Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Jim Trotter

Reggie Roberts: Are you surprised that every team in the NFL right now has at least one loss?

Jim Trotter: "Yes, I am. Consider this: You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time a team didn't start a season 7-0. In four of the last five seasons, there was at least one team that started 10-0. So to have no one reach 4-0 this year is pretty shocking. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle is probably smiling in heaven at what's taking place. He was a proponent of parity, and that's what we have in the NFL."

RR: What's going on with the Dallas Cowboys and do you see them being able to right the ship and turn things around after their 1-4 start?

JT: "The Cowboys need to only look in the nearest mirror to find out why they're one of the league's bigger disappointments. They've consistently demonstrated a lack of discipline and an inability to protect the football. Is it a coincidence that their lone victory was the only game in which they failed to commit a turnover? I think not. Also, in three of their defeats, they were penalized 11-or-more times. To paraphrase 49ers coach Mike Singletary, you can't win with 'em (penalties and turnovers)."

RR: The Falcons suffered a tough loss on Sunday in Philadelphia, but after spending six of the first eight weeks (counting the last two preseason games) on the road, they will play four of their next five games at the Georgia Dome where they are 15-3 under head coach Mike Smith. Should Falcons fans relax or should they be worried about their team?

JT: "Relax. The Falcons are legit — the debacle in Philadelphia notwithstanding. Atlanta entered Monday night ranked eighth in points allowed and 11th in scoring; that's a solid formula for success. It also was seventh in rushing and eighth at stopping the run; again, a proven recipe for success. I wouldn't be surprised if the Falcons were favored in three of their next four at home, the exception being the Ravens. They definitely have the means to beat the Bengals and Bucs, and who knows what the injury-depleted Packers will look like when they arrive in town on Nov. 28. So, again: Relax, Falcons fans."

RR: Give us your thoughts on the Carolina Panthers and their 0-5 start. How do you see the 2010 season playing out for the Panthers?

JT: "I see it playing out much as it has already, with the Panthers continuing to struggle because of issues at quarterback and wide receiver. As good as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are, it's tough to win in the NFL when you're one-dimensional and averaging only one offensive touchdown a game."

RR: You are very familiar with New York Jets RB LaDanian Tomlinson from your days of covering him when he was a member of the San Diego Chargers. Are you at all surprised by his resurgence?

JT: "Not at all. I said from the start that I thought he would be effective in New York, because of the Jets' commitment to running the ball. Tomlinson isn't that 60-yard, breakaway threat that he was for much of his career in San Diego, but he can still churn out the tough yards. And outside of Marcus Allen, I'm not sure I've seen a better goal-line runner. Stated succinctly, Tomlinson has a nose for the goal line."

RR: There were a number of vicious collisions all over the league this past weekend. What do you think needs to be done to legislate these helmet-to-helmet hits out of the game?

JT: "This is a difficult question, because, in my opinion, some helmet-to-helmet hits are inadvertent. So let me approach this from the standpoint of how do you legislate against MALICIOUS helmet-to-helmet hits, like the one we saw with Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather on Sunday, or even Steelers linebacker James Harrison on two Browns players. The only way to get the attention of players in these types of incidents is by letting everyone know up front that they could face suspension for flagrant helmet-first hits to the head. Bottom line, as former Pats safety Rodney Harrison said on NBC Sunday night, is this: Players make enough money that they're not overly concerned with $5,000 and $10,000 fines — particularly players whose games are built around an intimidation factor. But if you start taking games away from them, if you hold them accountable to their teammates and organizations, then you have a better shot at changing their mental approach."

RR: You've always been a national reporter with fantastic sources which leads to really good stories. What are your sources telling you about the NFL's impending labor situation?

JT: "Depends on whom you talk to. Boiled to the bone, I'm an optimist. I think the owners and players are too smart to ruin a good thing. I believe something will get done at the 11th hour. At worst, I think we miss a few games to start the year. But there will be football in 2011. No doubt in my mind."

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