Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Don't fret over the Falcons' O; worry about the D

"Young man, have you given any thought to playing safety?" (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

I wouldn't give up on the Atlanta Falcons' offense. The line is in disarray, but it's not as if the line has ever been in array. Joe Hawley, lost for the duration, was starting at center only because Peter Konz wasn't ready. Lamar Holmes, also gone for the season, was starting at right tackle only because Sam Baker was hurt in preseason and Jake Matthews had to switch sides.

My point being: No matter how that starter happened to get his assignment, you never want to lose one -- but it's not as if the Next Men Up are replacing All-Pros. The difference between Holmes and Gabe Carimi or Hawley and Konz isn't a great expanse. Will the Falcons' O-line be as good now? Nope. Will it be so much worse that the offense can't function? Nope.

(Let's also not ignore the persuasive powers of Mike Tice, the new line coach. I expect some Coaching Up will get done.)

The offense is so good that it can plan around most things. More worrisome is the defense, a source of much hand-wringing all along. The defense was bad to begin with, and now it's without William Moore, one of the better men on an awful unit. We often overrate NFL injuries as to impact -- Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders told me in preseason that Sean Weatherspoon's absence might cost the Falcons a quarter of a win, which isn't a lot -- and I don't know that Moore, who's a good player, was what you'd call a difference-maker.

Alas, nobody on this defensive roster is a difference-maker. Mike Nolan hasn't exactly drenched himself in coordinating glory, but it would take a heap of scheming to make this bunch respectable. In my view, the only man working in Flowery Branch capable of such defensive scheming is the head coach. Which is why I believe Mike Smith needs to take this D and see if he can save it and maybe his job.

From Mike Smith needs to coach the Falcons' D -- or else.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.