Posted: 6:00 am Monday, June 16th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
FLOWERY BRANCH – Former Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran, who’s now a local radio personality on 680 The Fan’s The Front Row show, painted a bleak picture of the upcoming season during a segment on the SiriusXM NFL Radio show.
On the eve of mandatory minicamp, Finneran tossed out this bomb when asked about pressure to win this season on a recent segment on NFL Radio.
“But owners want you to win regardless of who’s on the field,” Finnernan said. “Who’s hurt and who’s not. They’ve got to do that this year or unfortunately, heads are going to roll because that’s the nature of this beast.”
A transcript is below, but some of the highlights included:
–He’s not very high on the defense.
–He believes Coach Mike Smith and the team is too uptight and stressed out. “To say guys are a little tight and maybe a little stressed is maybe an understatement, especially on that coaching staff.”
–He doesn’t know how they are going to replace Tony Gonzalez.
–Rates 50-50 as the odds that Steven Jackson can get the rushing attack moving.
–Joe Hawley will win the starting center competition.
–If they stay healthy, the Falcons may make a wildcard playoff bid.
Q: NFL RADIO: (Not on the clip sound clip, but had to be something about the defense.)
A: FINNERAN: When you look at that linebacker corps for the Falcons, it’s nothing to write home about. Sean Weatherspoon was one of the bright spots and he’s now gone for the season.
Q: Is his career in jeopardy, do you think?
A: I don’t know. He’s one of those guys, like you said, who’s an absolute specimen (with) physical workout speed, agility and power. The stuff that he brings to the football field is just awesome to watch.
Q: Hey, let’s talk a little bit broader about your team as you see these guys. It seems from the outside looking in, a lot of pressure is on the coach. This is the year they’ve got to perform. Do you think the owner is a little antsy with these guys?
A: To say guys are a little tight and maybe a little stressed is maybe an understatement, especially on that coaching staff. Coach Smith may be feeling it the most just because you want to go into a new stadium with a winning record and a winning attitude. That’s what they had up until last year. Injuries played a huge role. But owners want you to win regardless of who’s on the field. Who’s hurt and who’s not. They’ve got to do that this year or unfortunately, heads are going to roll because that’s the nature of this beast. That’s the nature of the NFL. If you don’t win for me and we have a new stadium coming, we have to figure something else out.”
Q: In any other year, no pressure on the coach, coming off a great season, we would have been focused on one subject, replacing Tony Gonzalez. But we almost never get any calls about it on this show. We seem to never discuss it, but ultimately that is a huge hole that has to be filled. How’s that looking?
A: That’s not looking so good at all. You’ve got Bear Pascoe, who can block people I think and maybe catch a ball in the flat every once in awhile off some play-action stuff, but he’s not going to get down the football field at all. You have Levine Toilolo who they had last year as a rookie. (He) surprised me a little bit. Jumped around and made some plays in the redzone. By no means or by (any) stretch of the imagination is he Tony Gonzalez, but he gives you another weapon in the redzone. He’s not a pure type of receiver like Tony was. But he has some ability. A very raw talent. But as far as what they were this year compared to last year, it’s a huge drop off and they will feel it in a huge way. Hopefully, guys like Roddy White can kind of pick up the slack there in third down situations. Harry Douglas, who had a big year last year, can kind of do the same. Those are some big shoes to fill and I don’t know if the Falcons can do it.
Q: When healthy Steven Jackson is an absolute monster. We know that your team wanted to get a little bit bigger in the trenches, not only defensively, but offensively. Obviously, getting (Jake) Matthews as your top draft pick from Texas A&M was huge, but what are the odds that Steven Jackson can get that running game cranked up here?
A: I’d probably put it at 50-50. It’s just a toss-up right now. If Sam Baker can stay healthy, that could give you a good chance. Justin Blalock has been a staple at left guard. Joe Hawley will get the center duties. He finished the season last year at that spot and Matt Ryan likes Joe a lot. With the guys they have on that roster, he’s probably the best fit for that team. Then you picked up Jon Asamoah from Kansas City. It’s a re-defined, whole new facelift line for that (offensive) line. Matt is happy with how they are looking. They are physical. Mike Tice brings an attitude to that offensive line as the new (offensive) line coach. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how the running game changes, but again Steven Jackson has to stay healthy. If he doesn’t, then Devonta Freeman, the kid out of Florida State, enough of a every-down back to help out? I don’t know.
Q: Wow. There is a lot of work to do in Atlanta. After talking to you, I feel differently about this team. They need to get through preseason without a single injury.
A: That definitely has to happen. They have to stay healthy. Julio has to stay healthy. If that happens, Matt will be very pleased and this team will go . . . will (make) a run at the playoffs. Maybe, a wildcard. If somebody else gets banged up on the offensive side of the ball, they are going to have a tough, tough year.
PHASE THREE OF OFFSEASON PROGRAM
–Monday, June 16 – Physicals.
–Tuesday, June 17 — Day One: Mandatory minicamp (Open to Public, 3:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.).
–Wednesday, June 18 – Day Two: Mandatory minicamp (Open to Public, 3:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.).
–Thursday, June 19 – Day Three: Mandatory minicamp. (Offseason program ends for veterans).
–June 22-28 – Rookie Symposium
TBA – (Late July) – Report to Training camp.
PRACTICES WITH TEXANS — Wednesday, August 13 and Thursday, August 14.
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