Falcons to be the next team filmed for HBO’s Hard Knocks?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan directs his offense in the first half of their NFC divisional playoff against the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia January 15, 2011. The Packers defeated the Falcons 48-21. UPI/Mark Wallheiser.

While appearing on SiriusXMNFL radio on Friday morning, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff indicated that the Falcons might be willing to be covered this year on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

“Two years ago we were approached and decided that it wasn’t right for us at that point,” Dimitroff said. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t go down that road if it was presented to us at another time. We are much closer to being in that spot where it’s not going to be as much of a distraction as it would have been another time.

“It’s such an individual thing. Hard Knocks could be right for some of the teams that are fairly entrenched. It could be right for some team that wants to kick off some more brand recognition.”

“I truly believe that an organization has to be in the right spot to jump into something like Hard Knocks,” Dimitroff said. “I think it sheds a lot of light on our league. This is a league of entertainment. There are some traditionalists that struggle with it, but they have to work against the grain a little bit and see that this is about entertainment. Hard Knocks is a good show for the fan base.”

Some Falcon fans might be worried that the show would become a distraction, but I would trust Dimitroff. He’s smart, calculated and he wouldn’t agree to anything that he believed would hurt his team. Outside of a few names that have come and gone, the Falcons have basically had the same coaching staff in place since 2008 and their core (Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner, John Abraham and Tony Gonzalez) remains intact. This is a grounded organization that shouldn’t be rocked by a potential distraction such as Hard Knocks.

Of course, the Falcons would be the polar opposite of Rex Ryan and the Jets. Mike Smith can get as fired up as any coach in the league, but he’s always even-keeled and calm with the media. And while Roddy White can be flamboyant from time to time, I’m not sure if Ryan, Turner and Gonzalez have dropped an F-bomb in their lives.

In other words, if the Falcons are the next team filmed for Hard Knocks, don’t expect the same foul-mouthed program that the Jets produced last year. (Not that I’m complaining – Ryan and the Jets were highly entertaining.)

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The Falcons’ first round trade has been three months in the making

Wide receiver Julio Jones of the University of Alabama stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the sixth overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Heading into this year’s draft, the overall consensus was that the Falcons would use their first round pick (No. 27 overall) on defense after they gave up 48 points in an embarrassing Divisional Round loss to the Packers last January.

But that ugly showing inside the Georgia Dome that night must have showed GM Thomas Dimitroff that he had a more pressing need than defense. One that facilitated the biggest trade so far of the 2011 NFL Draft.

It was apparent in the Falcons’ loss to the Packers that they didn’t have another receiver opposite Roddy White to stretch the defense. In fact, the Falcons had an issue all season in gaining yards after the catch. Tight end Tony Gonzalez is still productive, but he’s lost a step over the years. Michael Jenkins comes up with a couple of clutch receptions every season and is a solid blocker in the run game (an important skill in Atlanta‘s offense), but he doesn’t threaten defenses with his speed. Slot receiver Harry Douglas does have good speed, but he’s been slow to recover from a knee injury that he suffered in training camp in 2010.

So Dimitroff packaged five picks (including his 2012 first round selection) in order to move all the way up to No. 6 (which was the Browns’ original pick) in order to select Alabama receiver Julio Jones in the first round on Thursday night. Jones is the ultimate blue-chip prospect. He can break tackles, make plays after the catch and yes, stretch defenses vertically. Assuming Jones isn’t a bust in the making, defenses won’t be able to double-team White and Matt Ryan now has even more weapons at his disposal.

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Falcons wise to reward Mike Smith with an extension, stay the course

I don’t fault anyone who thought the Falcons should hire two new coordinators, set fire to the Georgia Dome carpet and draft seven new defensive backs in April after the Packers torched Atlanta 48-21 in the postseason.

But that would have been an overreaction and after the Falcons went 13-3 this season, there’s no need to panic just because they were humiliated in the playoffs.

Pardon the clichéd expression but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Owner Arthur Blank had a real mess on his hands when Michael Vick was hauled off to prison and Bobby Petrino left in the middle of the night to go call hogs in Arkansas. But he made one really great decision in hiring GM Thomas Dimitroff, who then made one really great decision in hiring Mike Smith as head coach.

Smith, who has guided the Falcons to a 33-15 record in three years as head coach, was just given a well-deserved three-year contract extension. Don’t be surprised if Dimitroff were given a new deal as well, which would be smart on Blank’s part. This is a team that needs to stay the course.

The Falcons’ biggest goal is shared by all 32 teams: Win a Super Bowl. But while they want to emulate the success that the Steelers and Packers have had this season, they can’t worry about trying to model themselves after either team. The Steelers have had great defenses for decades and Ted Thompson spent years building the roster that the Packers will feature this Sunday in Arlington. Just because the Falcons aren’t in the position that Green Bay is right now doesn’t mean they need to start over.

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Dunta Robinson a Falcon by the end of the day?

Using Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff’s exact words, the Falcons have publicly stated over the past couple weeks that they would be “fiscally responsible” when it comes to spending money on free agents this offseason. In other words, the Falcons are expected to be awfully quiet in free agency and instead focus on the draft.

But as of Friday morning, the Falcons appear to be a lock to land former Texan Dunta Robinson, who along with Leigh Bodden is one of the top cornerbacks on the market. Robinson is currently in Atlanta now and a deal could be wrapped up by the end of the day.

Despite Dimitroff’s stated plan to fly under the radar this offseason, the Falcons know that their number one need is in the secondary. They re-signed veteran Brian Williams to a one-year deal on Thursday, but he’s 31 and missed most of the 2009 season after tearing his ACL. Chris Houston (a 2007 second round pick) was eventually supposed to emerge as the team’s No. 1 corner and while he’s a tremendous athlete, he has trouble playing the ball when it’s in the air and often gets beat in coverage. Brent Grimes is arguably the team’s best athlete, but he can be beat by taller, more physical wideouts that tower over his listed 5-10 (that’s being generous) frame. Chevis Jackson and Chris Owens are bigger corners that Dimitroff drafted in the middle rounds over the last two years, but they still have a ways to go in their development.

For the Falcons, it’s all about matching up with the Saints. They know they need all the corner help they can get since they have to play New Orleans twice a year, which is why they’re willing to spend big on Robinson. Obviously we don’t know what the final contract numbers will be, but there’s a good chance Atlanta slightly overpays for Robinson because corner is such a need area.

Robinson failed to produce an interception last season, but still displayed the skills necessary to be a top-flight corner. He certainly wasn’t great in coverage, but with a new deal and a new team, he should be motivated to play well next year. If the Falcons do land him, they’ll be taking a significant step in their efforts to return to the playoffs.

12:20PM ET Update: Adam Schefter reports that the Falcons tried to acquire Robinson before the trade deadline last year. If that’s the case, whatever Atlanta signs Robinson for today will be a bargain, seeing as how they didn’t have to give up a draft pick on top of a long-term contract.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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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