With very little to read and weeks to go I'm just writing my thoughts.
2012 was a wonderful year. A great year, a dream year. It's the year it all came together at last. It's the year the young hawks forged into the team nobody wanted to meet in the 2nd half of the season.
It was no longer "They have a tough Defense" or "They run the beast" or "Probably the best secondary in football", it was a team that did everything good and hard and painful.
We didn't win the SB, we didn't even make it to the NFC championship game but we were ohhhh so close.
Still, we found our QB, we became a team, a complete team that everyone will be scared of and ready for starting 2013.
We plan to do even better at 2013. Everyone predicts we'll do better. However, doing better then 11-5 in the toughest division in the NFL is not easy even with the team that scared everyone by the end of 2012. This team will need to do better…
What is it that will spark this improvement? Why should we really believe we should do better?
This is what I see as the building blocks of doing better:
1. Overall – The term "young and very talented" was mentioned a lot about the Hawks. Notice that the "young" will almost always come first. Youth in a team is a double edged sword. On one hand – youth is less experience, less understanding of the game, more "rookie mistake" then "veteran play". The other edge of this sword is better physical condition and performance coupled with potential for improvement. It's that potential that I want to concentrate on. It's a common view that players in the NFL do not reach their prime as far as understanding the game and overall contribution until they have approx 50 NFL games under their belt. That's especially true for skill positions. It's a very common view that the biggest jump in performance happens after the 1st and 2nd year of a player's history. That improvement is most likely to happen when that player has the benefit of a stable system around him (continuity) and the coaching stuff that is aimed at working with those players to teach, coach and push them along. With the number of key players we have with less then 50 games in their resume (RW,Wagner, K.J., Sherman, Thomas, Tate, Baldwin, Browner, Okung, Sweezy, Moffit, Turbin even Kam) – All those guy should improve their game. Each and every one of them should play a little or a lot better this year. The amount of starters we have with more then 4 years in the NFL can be counted on one hand leaving enough to give Jim the finger. So, overall, last year's "young and talented" team should be better this year just because they will be a bit less young this year.
2. Making a break – In addition to the above "overall improvement" prediction there are a player or two that were a part of the team but their contribution was limited and can make a very big step this year. Not the basic "getting a bit better" but a breakout year. I see 3 of those in our roster. 3 Guys who should make an impact this year. They are –
Carpenter – It's his third year with us. In his first 2 years he saw the doctor more then the coach. He is big, strong and mean and a 1st round pick. This is his year to come in healthy and make a BIG deference.
Thurmond – Another victim of the injury list. He was valued as better then Sherman 2 years ago so he has something to show on the field. I believe he will.
Sweezy – It's not easy to be Sweezy, Not at all. Taking a defensive lineman and turning him into an offensive lineman is a huge undertaking. It takes time and effort from the coaching stuff and the expected results can not be seen in his first year. You don’t take such a step unless there is a substantial upside for this player. Making the starting lineup last year is a bloody miracle. With that season under his belt and another full off-season to prepare he should be MUCH better this year.
3. INs and OUTs – The last element when predicting this years improvement over last year's team is the guys that left and the new guys coming in. We lost very few contributors after 2012. Branch, Jones, L. Hill, Washinton and Trufant are the only guys that left.
Winfield coming in and Thurmond will easily outperform last year's Trufant.
Hill was on his way out.
Washington's contribution will be met by Harvin and Michael.
Brach and Jones are more then covered by Avril, Bennet, McDanial, Williams and Hill.
You cant finish the INs and OUTs without a special Harvin mention. Harvin is not a replacement or an upgrade. This is a new force joining what we already have.
It's the NFL, guys get hurt, guys get tested, some guys even kill someone. Nothing can be taken for granted. Still this team should really be better then the 2012 team and we know that team was very very good.
This really could be the year we move from better to best.