Scouts Inc.: NFC South team profiles

Analyzing team philosophies and offseason observations for NFC South teams

Originally Published: April 23, 2011
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.
Josh Freeman/Raheem MorrisHarry How/Getty ImagesThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quickly built a solid foundation.

Scouts Inc. takes a look at all 32 NFL teams, grouped by division, heading toward the 2011 season (whenever it arrives), examining offseason observations, the decision-makers, and the offensive and defensive philosophies of each team.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Offseason observations: This was an excellent team in 2010, and despite its blowout home loss in the playoffs to Green Bay, the organization didn't overreact and try to make wholesale changes on the roster or with the coaching staff. This team has good overall personnel, the organization has excellent stability and the best thing might be that it is a young team with productive years in its future. The Falcons have posted three winning seasons in a row and now expect to win Super Bowls, not just get to the playoffs.

Organizational structure: GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith run this organization, and they appear to have one of the best working relationships in the league. They have the same philosophical views on personnel, and Dimitroff's background in the New England system with Bill Belichick gives this scouting department clearly defined goals and proven player-acquisition principles. They believe in taking character players and they don't take a lot of chances on high-risk guys. The scouts are solid, but they are basically information gatherers, and you just don't see this group making a lot of mistakes.

Offensive philosophy: This is a run-first, pass-second offense even though the Falcons have an elite quarterback in Matt Ryan. The key is offensive balance, with the run game setting up play action. They like two-back I-formations with two wide receivers, and they don't use many exotic multiple-receiver sets. The passing game is mostly short to intermediate, but the play action will set up some good deep shots. They will use some motion and even an occasional gadget play to keep defenses off balance, but this is a rock-solid and well-conceived offense.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.