At 2-7 on the season, many fans are starting to voice their hope the Falcons would tank the rest of the way to be in position for South Carolina pass rusher JaDaveon Clowney. The problem is, the players and head coach Mike Smith don’t want that to be the case.
This fact is very much the case for wide receiver Roddy White, who is set to play in his second straight game, since coming back from hamstring and ankle injuries.
“This is a time where everybody shows their true colors so you know what kind of teammates you’ve got,” Roddy said. “Know whether they’re going to grind with you or whether they’re going to tap out.”
Roddy was able to come back last week and was part of the Falcons third straight loss. All three of those games have not been close in any way. The Cardinals beat them 27-13 on the road and then the Panthers dismissed them 34-10 away from home. The return home against the Seahawks wasn’t any better with the final score reading 33-10.
The prior weeks the rhetoric in the Falcons locker room seemed to be focused on piecing wins together and making a possible run at the playoffs. Now, a lot of the comments from the players mirror the one that Roddy White delivered on Thursday. Veteran running back Steven Jackson knows that jobs are also on the line for a team that has been used to winning.
“This franchise has been so successful over the years,” Jackson said. “They realize that we haven’t played to the expectations of ourselves or anybody else.”
This is coming after a 13-3 season and a trip to the NFC Championship Game. Plus, an offseason where the team added Pro Bowl players like running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora. However, the team also had to move on without key players like defensive end John Abraham, offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, and the retirement of center Todd McClure. All of this can contribute from the team being on top one year, and not so close the next according to head coach Mike Smith.
“I think the way you have to deal with the salary cap, free agency, and the draft that it can change very quickly,” Smith said.
Not to be left off the list of players that are no longer with the Falcons are cornerbacks Dunta Robinson (now in Kansas City) and Brent Grimes (now with the Dolphins). Their absence has meant that rookie corners Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford had to learn very quickly. Roster turnover like this after a good season, could only mean that change after 2013 could be inevitable. So, guys like safety William Moore aren’t taking anything for granted.
“Every man in here has to be accountable and every man in here has a job to do,” Moore said. “If you don’t want to do your job, we’ll have to find someone to do it. So that’s what it comes down to, we all want to come out there and play.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan is in no danger of not being a part of this team going forward, especially after signing his newest contract. That said, he is a leader on this team and is trying to deliver a positive message to his team to finish strong.
“Let’s go out there and play well and do what we’re capable of doing,” Ryan said. “I think if you have that kind of small mindset, that tight vision, I think that’s going to be a good thing for us.”
The Falcons now face the Buccaneers this week in Tampa. A team that is coming off their first win of the season on Monday Night Football against the Dolphins. Plus, another challenge the Falcons face this week is the fact they’re 0-4 on the road this season. The Falcons last win on the road during a regular season game was December 22nd of last season against the Lions. After Sunday, the Falcons next game is back home against the Saints on Thursday Night Football and then a trip to Toronto to take on the Bills comes the following week.