We're back for our second Q&A with an SB Nation blogger. Earlier this week we learned a bit more about the New Orleans Saints, courtesy of Dave Cariello and Canal Street Chronicles. This time around we sit down with Dave Choate from The Falcoholic (yes that's back to back Dave's. Throw in Dave Halprin of our Cowboys blog and Dave's are dominating SB Nation!). The 49ers travel to Atlanta for week 4 of the NFL season. Last season the Falcons took the 49ers behind the woodshed at Candlestick, laying a 45-10 beatdown on the 49ers. Although it took midway through the subsequent game at Houston for Alex Smith to be inserted into the starting lineup, one could argue this game was really the beginning of the end of the Shaun Hill era. Of course, it didn't help that the normally solid defense got absolutely wrecked. Let's hope the 49ers can get a dose of revenge this season at the Georgia Dome.
Fooch: What would you say has been the biggest acquisition and biggest loss in free agency (or trades) for the Falcons this offseason?
Falcoholic: The biggest acquisition is probably cornerback Dunta Robinson, but he carries quite a bit of risk as a guy who has seen his numbers decline over the last couple of years. Still, he's a veteran with a track record on a team that has one of the youngest cornerbacking corps in the NFL.
The Falcons didn't really lose anyone critically important this year, instead letting go of organizational depth. I'm pleased we've been able to maintain a strong nucleus, though veteran cornerback Brian Williams and veteran wide receiver Brian Finneran could be on the chopping block if the rookie class comes on strong.
After the jump Dave discusses the Falcons draft, the Falcons 2009 regression, and a prediction for the game...
Fooch: Can you give a recap of your draft as far as players that you expect to make an impact in 2010, whether it be starting or in terms of adding depth. Even though it's a fairly early game in the season (October 3), who do you think the 49ers will have to keep an eye on in this game?
Falcoholic: The 49ers will definitely want to watch out for Sean Weatherspoon. Our first round pick is tough as nails and as loud as a jackhammer, which has made a fan favorite already. He'll be starting Week 1 and should be a factor all day long when we play you guys.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters will likely be in the rotation at that point, as well, and Dominique Franks is an electric athlete who could factor in on kick returns. Everyone else from the draft is either going to be riding the pine or relegated to special teams that early in the season, I would think.
Fooch: Matt Ryan and Michael Turner both seemed to struggle last season (not that it mattered against the 49ers). What do you think was the cause for each, and what kind of follow-up season can we expect from them?
Falcoholic: With Matt Ryan, I think it was a simple case of defenses making adjustments and errant throws. He felt more pressure in 2009 than his rookie campaign thanks to injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness along the offensive line. He also was without an effective Michael Turner for most of the season, and he played like he felt he had to win every game himself. As Brett Favre can tell you, you'll lose a few games that way.
Turner's a different story. He came into last year out of shape by his own admission, and he got off to a slow start. By the time he started to come around, he got hurt. When he tried to return to the field early, he got hurt again. And so on. He's supposedly in better shape, so I just have to cross my fingers that he's healthy again. If he is, he ought to be one of the best runners in the NFL again in 2010.
Fooch: The Falcons seemed to regress a bit in 2010. They've made some moves to fill weaknesses, but at this point in the offseason what holes do you still see in the Falcons?
Falcoholic: Accuse me of being overly optimistic if you will, but I don't see any glaring holes on this football team.
Ryan's going to get better. Turner's healthy again (I hope). The offensive line is deeper, as is the defense. Our most glaring holes on defense were at cornerback and the outside linebacker spot occupied by Mike Peterson, and we've made moves to address both. I don't know our starters are the most talented in the league across the board, but we're a deeper and better team than a year or even two years ago. Considering we've gone a respectable 20-12 in those last two years, that should be plenty scary for the rest of you.
So be scared. I guess that's what I'm saying.
Fooch: Although it's still incredibly early, could you make a prediction on the 49ers-Falcons game? Given that most teams haven't even conducted OTAs yet, we certainly won't hold you to it come October.
Falcoholic: I'm going to go Falcons 28, 49ers 24. Two up-and-coming young teams with awesome coaches is going to be a close game, but whether by homerism or divine inspiration I still have to pick my team to win it all. I'll expect merciless taunts if I'm wrong.