The Falcons have emphasized a youth movement at a number of position groups during this offseason. At both offensive line and cornerback, the plan was to give some of the younger guys on the roster an opportunity and so far many of the young Falcons are responding.
On the other hand, the Falcons went out and signed two veteran players, both with a ton of experience and success in the NFL. Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora will be 30 and 31, respectively, when the Falcons begin the season and there were already a few key vets over the age of 30 sprinkled throughout the roster.
Asante Samuel, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White are a few in the "Over-30 Club" and all are expected to fill important roles this year. Mix those vets with championship pedigree and lengthy NFL experience with players entering their primes and you get a team that is ready to win and knows they can win. The sense of urgency to fulfill what the talent on their roster says they can do is present, as it has been in the past few seasons as this roster has continued to grow.
"I feel like every year you have to have that sense of urgency," quarterback Matt Ryan said, one of the pivotal players entering his prime on the roster. "We have a good football team coming back but what we did last year really has no bearing on what we're going to do this year. We've got a long road ahead of us, but I think we've gotten off to a really good start. The additions during the offseason, guys like Osi, Steven Jackson, as well as our draft picks, I think are really going to help our football team. I thought we did a great job during our offseason and through minicamp."
Umenyiora, coming from New York where expectations for championships are high every year, said he's quickly realized things in Atlanta aren't that much different from the front office to the players from his old team.
"I think they're urgent here," Umenyiora said. "They want to win. We want to win. That's why they've made some of the moves that they've made."
Signing those veterans wasn't intended to send a message to any under-performing player on the roster. The moves were made to supplement a talented youthful roster with experience and leadership. In doing so, it's clear the Falcons think they're entering a time in the roster's evolution where they think they can win and win now. The proverbial window is wide open.
"I definitely feel like we're in that window," Ryan said. "I feel like we've had the confidence the last four or five years that we've got enough players on this football team to do what we want to do. We've fallen short but I feel like you've got to have that mindset that you're going to keep working hard, keep trying to attack the goals that you have in front of you. If we do that we're going to give ourselves a chance.