Falcons must add to O-line, D-line

4/20/2008 - NFL Atlanta Falcons

As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

New general manager Thomas Dimitroff and new head coach Mike Smith have an uphill task in turning around a franchise that was severely disrupted last season with off-field issues involving QB Michael Vick and former head coach Bobby Petrino. The Falcons' plan of attack will rely heavily on building through the draft, while supplementing the roster through free agency.

Dimitroff is an outstanding evaluator with excellent people skills, which should unite this organization. He has done a good job overhauling this roster with a good showing in free agency, but Atlanta still needs an outstanding draft to make this organization competitive. The Falcons will continue to utilize their new mind-set of building a foundation along the offensive and defensive lines during the draft.

Key Additions

The Falcons were very active in free agency addressing needs and finding value. RB Michael Turner is a perfect fit in Mike Mularkey's offensive system. Turner is a solid two-down player who will give the Falcons' running game a big-time spark opposite change-of-pace RB Jerious Norwood. TE Ben Hartsock is a steady player who has more value in the running game than the passing game. C Alex Stepanovich is a versatile player with starting experience, but he is best suited as a backup.

Defensively, the Falcons addressed the back end by signing FS Erik Coleman. He is a solid starter and despite a subpar 2007 season is an upgrade over Chris Crocker, who is now on Miami. Both DT Kindal Moorehead and CB Von Hutchins should compete for starting jobs. The Falcons signed Rashad Moore and Simon Fraser, who will go under the radar, but add valuable depth to the defensive line. They also signed K Jason Elam, who has been one of the league's most dependable kickers throughout his career and will give the Falcons' special teams a much-needed boost.

Key Losses

Once Smith was hired, the Falcons wasted little time reshaping their current roster. The loss of disgruntled CB DeAngelo Hall, who was traded to the Raiders, should affect the Falcons most because now they don't have a shutdown corner. Versatile starting LB Demorrio Williams was lost in free agency and he will be missed, along with starting DT Rod Coleman, who was released. Coleman is a talented player, but suffered injuries throughout last season and was finally placed on injured reserve late in the year. Even though he is still a skilled player, Coleman's health is a major concern for most teams around the league.

Offensively, the losses of RB Warrick Dunn and TE Alge Crumpler, who were released, could hinder the offense. Dunn is an 11-year veteran who is starting to show some wear and tear, while Crumpler's play has diminished due to his medical concerns and lack of consistent production. Starting LT Wayne Gandy was released because he is near the end of his career and is coming off a major knee injury. The Falcons also released inconsistent QB Byron Leftwich, who was with Smith in Jacksonville.

Remaining Questions

Even with the new additions in the offseason, this team still has a lot of needs to address. We think it will be very difficult for the Falcons to pass up a potential franchise quarterback in Boston College's Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in the draft. Regardless of whom the Falcons take in Round 1, they have 11 picks to take advantage of a deep and talented draft. Outside of quarterback, the Falcons need to address offensive tackle and find a tight end with playmaking skills. Defensively, the Falcons are going to address the interior of the line, while trying to find a young cornerback who can contribute right away. With all the moves the Falcons have made this offseason, only time will tell if they are on their way back to respectability.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.