|The Falcons, like countless other NFL teams, are apparently Super Bowl contenders. (Getty Images)|
We have another name for the Big Board of Players Claiming That Their Team Is Ready to Make a Super Bowl Run. Previously this offseason we'd heard from the Eagles' DeSean Jackson, the Dolphins' Karlos Dansby (we're still convinced he was being sarcastic) and the Bills' C.J. Spiller. And now Falcons safety Chris Hope has weighed in.
"(The Falcons) have the makings of being a Super Bowl team," Hope, who signed a one-year deal with Atlanta last month, told to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think that they are right there, knocking on the door. I feel like, for where I'm at in my career, I want to play for something. I don't want to play for a check. I want to play for an opportunity to win another ring."
Hope knows something about playing on a championship team. He was a member of the 2005 Steelers that beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL (also known as the "Hey, did you know that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?!" Bowl). Hope joined the Titans the next season where he was a Pro Bowler. Now 31, he's looking for another title.
"(The Falcons) are serious about not just being a good football team," he said. "They want to be the best football team. Going out and getting (cornerback) Asante Samuel and signing the guys back from last year was big. Matt Ryan is a great quarterback. (Michael) Turner is a great running back. They have two high-powered receivers in Roddy White and the young guy from Alabama (Julio Jones). They have all the tools and the keys to be a Super Bowl contender."
Hope's not wrong. The Falcons' Super Bowl aspirations were made clear in April 2011 when general manager Thomas Dimitroff traded up to take Jones. Fast-forward eight months and Atlanta ended up losing to the Giants in the wild-card round, managing just two points. It's way too early to proclaim that the Jones deal wasn't worth the cost of moving up (although Pats head coach Bill Belichick, a friend of Dimitroff's, told the Falcons' GM that he wouldn't have given up so much for Jones), but expectations are higher now than a year ago.
Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is now the Jaguars head coach and Dirk Koetter has replaced him. It sounds like the Falcons' offense will be of the pass-first variety, which makes sense with franchise quarterback Matt Ryan hopefully coming into his prime. Last week, offensive assistant Andrew Weidinger told the Journal-Constitution that "When we first came in, coach (Mike) Smith said we were going to run the ball. Now, we are going to throw it, too. We've got all sorts of weapons. We've got running backs. We've got tight ends. We've got receivers. We are going to be able to do a little bit of everything out there."
We've already mentioned that running back Michael Turner's workload could be lightened, which means more touches for Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.
As for the Falcons' defense, Hope is impressed with the secondary -- particularly cornerbacks Samuel, Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes -- and thinks his knowledge can be an asset.
"The safeties that they've had the last few years are real good and they are young," he said. "With my leadership and my veteran experience, I can just come in and help them out with whatever I can. I feel like I can still play at a high-level. But again, I'll just do whatever they ask me to do."
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