The Atlanta Falcons have put the entire NFL on notice that they mean business this coming season, scoring a huge coup in reportedly acquiring tight end Tony Gonzalez from the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2010 second round draft pick.
Gonzalez, one of the league’s elite receiving options over the past decade, had been asking for a trade for some time, and finally got his wish today when he was dealt to the Falcons, automatically making Atlanta a legitimate threat to make a huge playoff run.
The Falcons finished second in the NFC South last season, making the playoffs before losing to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.
Rookie QB Matt Ryan exceeded all expectations placed upon him, leading a team that was ranked sixth overall last season in passing yards (361.2 per game). Ryan threw for 3440 yards, and threw 16 TDs.
The focus of the offense however, centered on running back Michael Turner, who as electric after being acquired from San Diego before the outset of last season. Turner rushed for 1,699 yards, and 17 TDs, good enough for second overall among RBs (behind Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, who had 18).
The receiving corps was adequate, led by Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. White caught 88 passes for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns. Jenkins had 50 receptions, and totaled 777 yards receiving. Three of those receptions were for touchdowns.
Gonzalez, by comparison, had 96 receptions and totaled 1,058 receiving yards. His ten receiving TDs were the most team.
Gonzalez, entering his thirteenth NFL season, has established himself over his career and far more than a typical blocking tight end.
Instead, he was normally played the role of play maker for the Chiefs, who at times have lacked a truly talented receiver. Gonzalez has almost always been the player that has stepped up in lieu of that player.
This deal automatically makes the Falcons the team to beat in the NFC South, if not the entire conference. The offense is now absolutely electric. If the Atlanta defense can get even halfway on track, it is going to be absolutely devastating for all other teams to play against them.