Work in Sports
Offseason losses, Anderson return key storylines
The Atlanta Falcons opened their training camp at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., on July 13. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Falcons this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) The obvious. How long before Jamal Anderson is running with his old zip?
2.) How bad a hit did the Falcons take, losing their two fine DEs, Chuck Smith and Lester Archambeau?
3.) Without Anderson to keep the running game functional, can a so-so O-line keep the hounds off Chris Chandler?
4.) Will the Falcons figure out new and exciting ways to get the ball to one of the NFL's real eye-catchers, Tim Dwight?
5.) When a 5-11 team can point to very little help, and no starters, from the draft, can you honestly say that it's moving in a forward direction?
The Falcons can make the playoffs if ... Running back Jamal Anderson stays healthy. Anderson blew out his right knee in a Week 2 loss at Dallas and Atlanta's season was essentially done. He's practicing, but he missed most of a recent passing camp with tendinitis in the injured knee.
Pivotal games: At Carolina (Sept. 17), vs. St. Louis (Sept. 24). These two games could shape the Falcons' season. Atlanta must also survive a three-game November road trip through Detroit, San Francisco and Oakland.
On the hot seat: Quarterback Chris Chandler has to stay healthy. Chandler missed four games last season and was not as effective without Anderson in the backfield. In 1998, a mostly healthy Chandler threw for 25 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions and his quarterback rating was 100.9. In 1999, Chandler's number of TD passes (16) and QB rating (83.5) slipped while his INT total nearly stayed the same (11).
Up-and-comers: Keith Brooking, a 1998 first-round draft pick, became a starter last season at weakside linebacker and has impressed the coaches with his development. In 13 games, Brooking had 77 tackles, 17 assists and two sacks.