Fantasy Impact: Atlanta Falcons
New Head Coach: Bobby Petrino (UL
Cardinals HC: 2003-2006; AU Tigers OC: 2002; JAC OC: 2001; JAC QBs
Previous Head Coach: Jim Mora
Petrino's first stint in the NFL came with the Jacksonville Jaguars
during the 1999-2001 seasons. He worked as their QB coach for
two years and another as offensive coordinator. During his tenure,
Jacksonville went from a 14-2 finish in Petrino's first year with
the club to a 6-10 record in his final season as coordinator.
Quarterback Mark Brunell's 3640 passing yards and 20 touchdown
passes under Petrino's guidance in 2000 are his second highest
totals in both categories over his 13-year career.
Prior to his time in Jacksonville, Petrino spent 16 years coaching
at the collegiate level. He got his start as a graduate assistant
at Carroll College in 1983. Following a few years of rotating
back and forth between Carroll and Weber State University, Petrino
landed a position as quarterback coach with the Idaho Vandals
in 1989, spending the 1990-1991 seasons as their offensive coordinator.
He then coached at Arizona State, Nevada, Utah State and Louisville
University before taking his first position in the pros.
Following a three-year run with the Jaguars, Petrino returned
to the collegiate ranks in 2002 as Auburn University's offensive
coordinator. In his lone season with the Tigers, he guided an
offense that ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring,
rushing, and total offense. In 2003, Petrino returned to Louisville
where he served as the Cardinals head coach until signing with
the Atlanta Falcons this off-season.
During his four-year tenure as head coach at Louisville, the
team compiled a 41-9 record. The Big East Conference Championship
won by the Cardinals last season was the first in school history.
Their offense finished the year ranked fourth in the nation in
scoring (37.8 points per game) and second in total yards (484.6
yards per game). In Atlanta, Petrino will attempt to build an
offense that drastically improves upon its last place finish of
2682 passing yards in 2006.
Petrino's Impact On The Offense:
Quarterbacks: Michael Vick;
Joey Harrington; D.J. Shockley; Chris Redman
Whether Vick or Harrington is under center for the Falcons come
opening day, Petrino has all ready commented on expectations he
has for his starting quarterback. While Vick is clearly atop the
Falcons depth chart, concerns surrounding his involvement with
a dog-fighting ring have many wondering if he'll face suspension
at some point. Regardless, Petrino expects his QBs to complete
nearly 65% of their passes this season. It's a percentage averaged
by his quarterbacks during his four-year reign at Louisville and
one he expects from his starter in Atlanta.
Considering Vick has never completed higher that 56.4% of his
throws during a season, it wouldn't be surprising if he fails
to even reach 60% of his passes in 2007. If Vick were able to
drastically improve in that category, there is little doubt we'd
see him throw for more than 3000 yards for the first time in his
six-year career. Considering his past struggles in that department
however, it's likely Vick will finish with no better then 2600-2800
yards passing this season. Nonetheless, his incredible scrambling
abilities will continue making him a serviceable starter in fantasy
Running Backs: Warrick Dunn;
Jerious Norwood; Jason Snelling; Deandra Cobb
Jerious Norwood made a favorable impression as a rookie in 2006,
rushing for 633 yards and averaging 6.4 yards per carry in the
process. His incredible speed makes him a threat to go the distance
every time he touches the ball and recently Petrino has commented
on his terrific receiving capabilities--even suggesting Norwood
runs routes as well as a receiver. Should that be the case, the
second-year back out of Mississippi State is a good bet to at
least double his 13 receptions from last season. After rushing
99 times as a rookie, there will likely be an increase in his
number of carries. Norwood would be hard-pressed to match the
6.4 ypc he produced last season, but he's more than capable of
reaching the 5.0 ypc mark in 2007 with 700-800 yards rushing.
Paired with Norwood in the Atlanta backfield will be eleven-year
veteran Warrick Dunn. Dunn's been known as an accomplished receiver
over the course of his career, though it has been three years
since he last had more than 30 receptions in a season. The new
offense being put in place by Petrino appears to be one in which
he would like to give his running backs more opportunities in
the passing game. If he accomplishes that goal, Dunn may total
more than 30 receptions for the eighth time in his career, although
it may depend on which back Petrino wishes to feature more often
in the offense as a receiving threat. With or without the increase
in receptions, Dunn still remains a safe bet to rush for 900-1100
yards during the upcoming season.
Wide Receivers: Michael
Joe Horn was added to the Falcons receiving core during the off-season
following his release by the New Orleans Saints. At 35 years of
age itís clear the 11-year veteran's best days are behind
him. Given Atlanta's mediocre cast of receivers before his arrival,
Horn may be the best they have at the position. If he remains
healthy throughout the year he could finish with 650-750 receiving
yards. It's unlikely he'll approach the 1000-yard mark. In terms
of receptions expect Horn to finish with 45-55 of them this season.
Starting across from Horn will be fourth-year pro Michael Jenkins.
Jenkins started all 16 games for the Falcons in 2006, but finished
with just 39 catches for 436 yards. His seven touchdown receptions
were second only to Alge Crumpler. While Petrino is looking to
make the Falcons passing game more productive this year, it appears
Dunn and Norwood may be the biggest beneficiaries from that development.
In order for Vick to complete the percentage of passes his coach
is asking of him, the game plan will need to be adjusted to rely
on short passes to his running backs may be a step in the right
direction for Vick if he wishes to improve upon his accuracy percentage.
Petrino's comments about both backs receiving abilities would
seem to indicate he plans on having them more involved in the
passing game this season. With that in mind, don't expect Jenkins,
or any of Atlanta's returning cast of receivers to provide much
value in fantasy leagues.
Tight Ends: Alge
Expect more of the same from Crumpler this season. Over the last
three years he has averaged 56 receptions, 810 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
Petrino's changes to the offense shouldn't affect the level of
production fantasy owners have become accustom to from the six-year
vet. If anything, it's likely to enhance his performance.