Falcons lose first round pick Jerry for the season

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who was the Falcons first round pick in April, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in a win over the Panthers on Sunday.

This might not sound like a significant loss given that Jerry was a rookie and defensive tackles are rarely in the limelight, but this is a blow to the Falcons’ defensive line. Jerry was quickly emerging as a solid interior pass-rusher and offered a nice complement to John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux on Atlanta’s D-line.

The Falcons rotate their defensive linemen on game days, so Trey Lewis, Thomas Johnson and Vance Walker will all see playing time at the tackle position next to Babineaux. Unfortunately, none of the three provide the pass rush that Jerry does, although maybe the big-bodied Lewis (who was impressive as a rookie in 2007 before a knee injury sidelined him for the entire ’08 season) can help the Falcons fix a leaky run-defense that is allowing 5.1 YPC.

This is a bad time for the Falcons to lose a pass rusher with a trip to New England and a pissed-off Patriots team on the docket.

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Did the Falcons give up too soon on Robinson?

When the Atlanta Falcons selected receiver Laurent Robinson out of Illinois State in the third round of the 2007 draft, they envisioned the 6’2, 194-pound receiver becoming either a solid No. 2, or possibly even a No. 1 if Roddy White (who struggled in his first two years) failed to develop.

But after caching 37 passes for 437 yards and a touchdown his rookie year, knee and hamstring injuries limited Robinson to just five receptions in six games last season. With the emergence of second-year receiver Harry Douglas, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff traded Robinson to the Rams this past April. In exchange, the Falcons and Rams swapped fifth and sixth round picks in the ’09 draft.

It’s hard to criticize anything Dimitroff has done in his first two offseasons in Atlanta. After all, he hired a solid head coach in Mike Smith, signed free agent Michael Turner, drafted franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, and traded for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. It’s no wonder why Dimitroff was named the 2008 NFL Executive of the Year.

But a couple of years down the road (or possibly much, much sooner), I have a feeling that Dimitroff will look back on the Robinson deal as one of his bigger goof ups. And I don’t say that only because Douglas suffered a season-ending injury in camp this year and Atlanta is in a bit of a bind at slot receiver; I say it because Robinson could emerge as a quality playmaker very soon.

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Gonzo struggling to adapt in Atlanta?

In Chris Mortensen’s training camp preview of the Atlanta Falcons, Tony Gonzalez admits that he’s struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.

“I’ll admit I’m still somewhat uncomfortable,” said Gonzalez. “I’m learning a new offense, I’m making new friends, learning a new freeway system. All the things going into switching teams, I’m going through it right now and it’s kind of tough, like being a rookie all over again.”

Is that a good or bad thing?

“I think it’s going to help make me a better player,” said Gonzalez.

“You get in a whole new system, I’m blocking more at the point of attack, I have different route-running schemes and I’m working with a new quarterback. I think that helps you grow. When you’re uncomfortable like that, or taken out of your element, you either adapt to it or you don’t. When you see the talent on this team, you are motivated to adapt.”

Gonzalez is the consummate pro, so chances are he’ll eventually settle into his new situation and be productive. And considering the amount of time he spent in Kansas City, it’s understandable that it’s taking a while to get adjusted in Atlanta.

But considering the amount of blocking that he’s going to do in Atlanta’s offense, he might not have the kind of impact that many thought he would when the Falcons traded for him earlier this offseason. That’s not to say that he won’t be effective; he just might not tear up the stat sheet in Atlanta like he did for so many years in KC.

That said, he’s still going to be a security blanket for quarterback Matt Ryan, especially in the red zone and on third downs.

Gonzo was the top TE last season, but changing teams is never easy, so for that reason I believe that Jason Witten and Antonio Gates — who have had more consistency this offseason — are primed to outscore Gonzalez. Plus, the Chiefs were trailing for most of 2008, and that lends itself to catches and yards in garbage time. The Falcons should be leading games in the second half, so that means more Michael Turner and less Gonzo.

White’s contract fair for both him, Falcons

A couple days ago, the Falcons’ receiving corps was essentially on life support.

How bad were things? No. 1 wideout Roddy White was in the midst of a contract holdout that wasn’t going well, promising slot receiver Harry Douglas torn his ACL in practice and will miss the entire season, and the team had to scrap near the bottom of the free agent barrel by signing veterans Robert Ferguson and Marty Booker.

But over the weekend, things went from ugly to hopeful again as White ended his holdout by signing a six-year, $50 million contract extension with $18 million in guarantees. The deal was less than Larry Fitzgerald’s four-year, $40 million deal, but more guaranteed money than Greg Jennings’ three-year, $26.35 million (with incentives) extension.

Last week it was reported that White was seeking a deal similar to Fitzgerald, which would have been ridiculous if the report were true. White has been excellent the past two seasons, emerging as Atlanta’s best receiver and top playmaker. But he didn’t deserve Fitzgerald-type money, not with his lackluster first two seasons in the pros, where he didn’t even combine for 1,000 receiving yards and amassed just three touchdowns.

When you compare the two player’s numbers from a year ago, White (88 rec., 1,382 yards, 7 TDs) and Jennings (80 rec., 1,292 yards, 9 TDs) had comparable numbers. Given White’s solid 2007 season (83 rec., 1,202 yards, 6 TDs), it makes sense that he was given more guaranteed money than Jennings, but in no way should he make what Fitz does.

The Falcons did a nice job not panicking during White’s holdout, and not feeling the need to overpay when Douglas went down for the season. GM Thomas Dimitroff played it cool and got a deal worked out before White’s holdout became too much of a distraction. Plus, Dimitroff proved that the Falcons will take care of veterans like White when they play out their contracts.

Overall, this was a solid deal for both sides.

Roddy White should show more humility

Roddy White deserves to be paid like a No. 1 receiver – he just doesn’t deserve to be paid like Larry Fitzgerald.

White, the Falcons best receiver and top playmaker, is currently in holdout mode in hopes of getting a new contract. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal that will pay him $2.28 million this season and if he can’t reach a contract agreement with the Falcons, he’ll be a restricted free agent next year since the owners are opting out of the collective bargaining agreement. (2010 is heading for an uncapped year.)

Last season, White hauled in 88 passes for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns while helping to lead Atlanta to a miraculous playoff appearance. But when the Falcons opened their doors for training camp last Friday, White was nowhere to be found and is reportedly working out on his own in Alabama. Making matters worse for the Falcons, they just lost slot receiver Harry Douglas (who has been subbing for White during the holdout) for the season after he tore his ACL on Wednesday.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, contract talks between White and the Falcons have soured, with GM Thomas Dimitroff indicating that the holdout could go deep into camp. With White seeking a deal similar to what Fitz got (four years, $40 million), the Falcons may soon pull their offer off the table and make Roddy play out the final year of his contract.

This situation could have been avoided had White and his agent showed a little more trust and humility from the start. While White certainly has put up fantastic numbers these past two seasons (171 receptions, 2,584 yards, 13 TDs), he also shorted the Falcons during the first two years of his contract when he only caught 59 passes for a messily 952 yards and three touchdowns.

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