The obvious choice is often-injured Jerious Norwood. One week “Mysterious Jerious” shows us glimpses of stardom, only to go down the following week. He is a more talented athlete than Burner Turner but cannot fight off the injury bug. A pure home run hitter in every sense of the imagination, but what will his role be this season?
Jason Snelling has proven his worth. Michael Turner has lost weight and is in tremendous shape. Return Specialist? Third Down Back? I thought he would be a difference-maker by now with his electrifying speed. With that being said, I like three youngsters on the defensive side of the rock to rise up to the occasion and breakthrough on to the scene for Atlanta in 2010.
- Safety William Moore: The second round selection from Mizzou appeared in only two games registering just two tackles in ’09. Look for him to replace Erik Coleman, who is merely a stop-gap for a secondary that added Pro-Bowl CB Dunta Robinson in the off-season. Coleman is not the solution, he’s too small and doesn’t make enough plays, barely being average. Moore is the answer. The Falcons need a more aggressive play making strong safety next to Thomas DeCoud, and Moore fits the description. He’s got an abundance of athletic gifts at his disposal and if he stays healthy he will give Falcon fans something to cheer for on Sundays.
The former Tiger was an All-State High School WR/CB and an All-American at the collegiate level, so he surely possesses the special characteristics to become a ball hawk for the Birds. Already a dynamic hitter, Moore has a golden opportunity to astound and intimidate with his play. Heading into the ’09 Draft (should’ve came out as a junior as a Top 10 pick) he was undoubtedly without hesitation my #1 rated safety, drawing strong comparisons to All-Pro Adrian Wilson. I have to believe he has what it takes to force momentum shifting turnovers, forming a solid 1-2 punch with DeCoud. And if you don’t believe me look no further than his junior year, when he recorded an astonishing eight interceptions, I think that speaks for itself.
- Cornerback Christopher Owens: Another case where the guy ahead of him in the depth chart (as of now) is mediocre and just filling in. Owens will supplant Brent Grimes and become the starting corner opposite Dunta Robinson. The ’09 third round draft choice from San Jose State started six games and capped off a decent rookie campaign with a pick in the final two affairs. Expect the upper-echelon athlete to carry over his strong play and play a key role defending the opposing team’s #2 WR and speedy slot receivers.
Owens will receive a vast majority of the attention as teams will test him first seeing the acquisition of Dunta. Ideally balls will be thrown his way more often that not. Indeed plenty of chances to show his worth, which makes him a prime breakthrough candidate to make plays in a revamped Atlanta secondary.
- Linebacker Stephen Nicholas: I like how Atlanta drafts top-notch athletes on defense. Nicholas made a name for himself last season stepping foot on the gridiron in all 16 contests, starting 13, while producing 80 tackles, three sacks and passes defensed, two stuffs (tackles for loss), and a forced fumble. However, the former South Florida Bull will be challenged by Mizzou first round rookie Sean Weatherspoon. It will certainly give him extra motivation to keep his starting position intact.
Also keep in mind MLB Mike Peterson is getting up there in age and is still injury prone. Nicholas has the size to play the middle and speed to play outside. Because of his versatility, he’s an integral piece in Atlanta’s plan on D. Team him up with budding star tackling machine Curtis Lofton and the intriguing Weatherspoon and you have the makings of a special bunch.