Atlanta Braves

Mets Get Chopped

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Homers by Dansby Swanson and Matt Olsen powered the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win Sunday night and a three-game sweep of the formerly first place New York Mets in front of a raucous Truist Park crowd.

It was the third game in a row in which BOTH Swanson and Olsen have homered and it came against a loaded Mets lineup and three of the best pitchers in baseball.

The sweep gave Atlanta a 2-game lead over the Mets with 3 games to play with Atlanta holding the tiebreaker by winning the seasons series 10-9.

The Braves head to Miami to take on the Marlins, while the Mets close out the season at home with the Washington Nationals.

Any combo of a Braves win and a Mets loss and the Braves take home the Division Title again. And that’s after trailing the Mets by 10 ½ games on June 1.

It really looks like Deja Vue all over again as these Braves seem to be jelling at the right time. Last year they got hot in the playoffs. Well, they have sure looked like a formidable team rolling into October again.

The starting pitching has been steady. Max Fried and company have consistently gotten the Braves in a position to win after 5 or 6 innings and the bullpen has been stellar. The Atlanta bullpen posted a 1.70 ERA in the month of September. That’s flat out throwin BB’s sports fans……

While the pitching staff has been taking care of business, the starting lineup is playing bash ball. And that’s all through the lineup 1 thru 9.

The Mets rolled into Truist Park with a 1 game lead. Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and 15 game winner Chris Basset had pitched 377 innings between them. Those 377 innings posted a great 2.79 ERA. One of if not the best trio in baseball.

They flew back to New York with a 6.91 ERA through 14 innings. Basset never even got out of the third inning.

When you look down the Braves lineup, they can all hurt you……….and they will. Matt Olsen now has over 100 RBIs. Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson are pushing 100. Hell, the 2 catchers Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras have combined for over 100 RBI’s and around 40 home runs. Up and down there is speed and power in this lineup.

Defensively, the Bravos have been excellent with one of the tightest infields in the league and that’s with Ozzie Albies still out of the lineup.

Swanson might be the best overall shortstop in baseball and everyone knows what Matt Olsen and Austin Riley bring to the table game in and game out.

The outfield is just as good with rookie of the year candidate Michael Harris II leading the pack……….wait, did I say Michael Harris II leading the outfield???? What about Ronald Acuna? Well, that’s how good they are.

And last, but at the top of old chief Noc-A-Homa’s totem pole, is the steady excellent coaching staff headed by Brian Snitker. They need to put a big bronze in front of Truist Park of Ron Washington. That’s how steady those guys are.

So, what’s left?  Can they go win it all again. If the Braves can finish out the Marlins and take care of business, the Dodger Series would be one for the ages.

If they can battle past LA……….I like their chances! GO BRAVES!

Three Amigos

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Man, fall is in the air! Football is all over the place. Whether it’s our local high schools, college, or the pros.

But, let’s give it up for the Atlanta Braves. The World Series Wonders are fighting for the NL East title with the Metropolitans and win or lose will be back into playoffs.

The kicker on this is that the Braves have been built the same way Kirby has built the Dawgs. And that’s for the long haul.

The Braves have a guy running the show who has been pulling all the right strings since he came to Atlanta. Alex Anthopoulos came to the Braves in 2017 and was promoted to president of baseball operations in February of 2020.

He is the mastermind behind what is happening to the Braves. Anthopoulos was the guy who reworked the Braves lineup late last season to bring in Adam Duvall, Joc Peterson and Eddie Rosario. I don’t think the Bravos win it all without those moves.

Duvall was steady as a rock. Joc Peterson had half of Truist Park wearing pearl necklaces and ole Eddie was the NLCS MVP. Yeah, Anthopoulos pulled all the right strings last year.

But what about that deal for the long haul? What have you done for us lately, Alex? Well, he has worked on the Braves from the ground up and man this dude doesn’t play around.

The Braves have three of the top overall prospects in the majors now on their roster.

How good are they? Two of them will probably finish 1 and 2 in the rookie of the year voting and the third is a consensus top 10.

We’re talking about Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Vaughn Grissom.  These guys all have greatness written all over them.

Spencer Strider has struck out 200 batters in 132 innings. He carries an 11-5 record as of today. He consistently hits 97-100 on the gun. One of his teammates was asked how he ranked Strider and his reply was “just under deGrom”. Jacob deGrom is a future Hall of Famer.

Spencer Strider is 23 years old. Get used to seeing ladies with black fake moustaches at Truist Park! The guy is becoming his own little cult!

Vaughn Grissom is 21 years old and was brought up by the Braves when Ozzie Albies went down with a fractured foot over the summer.

He skipped AAA ball and came up from AA. With the Braves, he has played sterling defense and is batting .302 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 34 games. Now with Ozzie out again with a fractured pinky, Grissom will finish out the season at 2B. This guy has a chance to be a great one.

Last but not least of these three amigos is Michael Harris II. He is the odds-on favorite for NL Rookie of the Year.

The amazing thing about that is he only came up to the Braves at the end of May. Harris has solidified center field for the Braves and should be there for the foreseeable future.

He is currently hitting .305 with 18 HR and 59 RBI and 17 SB. He is 21 years old.

Anthopoulos knows his stuff and just signed the rookie Harris to an 8 year 72 million contract.

So, this is how Alex Anthopoulos is building the Braves for the future. And what a future it’s going be. These guys are loaded and now have a lineup that is as good as any in baseball. I think ole Alex is gonna keep it that way. GO BRAVES!

 

Who’s On First?

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When we start talking about the Atlanta Braves roster for the 2022 season, the first thing we need to do is just have everyone CALM DOWN.

Yes, this is a roster that does not include Freddie Freeman. He is now on a different roster, headquartered on the other side of the country. This fact is very sad but it is a fact with which we must all come to grips.

Especially since the new season has arrived and there are a whole 28 (for now) other players that are on the roster. And, I might add, it’s a roster that is primed to make another run at a championship.

First off, we have the return talents of Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa, Kyle Wright, and Opening Day starter Max Fried set to open the season in the starting rotation.

This is more or less the rotation that got the Braves through the postseason last year, which should instill some confidence in the hearts of the Braves faithful.

Fried and Anderson are low-key greats in the NL, despite the rings they’re about to receive, backed up by the gutsy veteran Morton, the still-not-quite- consistent Ynoa, and the postseason hero/still unproven in the regular season Wright.

I’d call that three you can count on and two talented question marks. And of course there’s always the looming specter of Mike Soroka getting healthy, assuming that ever happens.

Taking the ball from the starters is the Night Shift, most of whom are back to haunt opponents (Luke Jackson’s recent injury notwithstanding).

Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, and AJ Minter all return, joined now by the former Dodgers fireballer Kenley Jansen, and the bullpen looks to be in great shape yet again.

As for the plate and the field: the roster really doesn’t look so massively different as it did at the end of season; with one large, aforementioned exception.

Travis d’Arnaud returns as the backstop with William Contreras along with him (Manny Pina is also on the roster for the time being, as teams start the year with two extra players due to a shortened Spring Training).  d’Arnaud is in the second year of his two-year extension in 2022, which didn’t quite pay off last season as he followed up a stellar 2020 with an injury-plagued 2021.

He’s shown that he is capable of hitting the ball when he’s healthy, so the Braves will have to hope he stays on the field. If Contreras is the heir apparent for next season, he’ll need to get more at-bats and have better ones too.

That being said, if the rest of the lineup does their job, the catchers will just need to catch. The infield is as full of firepower as ever, with Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies all back to try and top their 33, 27, and 30 home run campaigns from last year.

Matt Olson, far from a scrub replacing Freeman, would have led the team in homers last year with 39.

The outfield is a little more of a mess, but not necessarily a troublesome one. Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall are back and will certainly hold their own at the plate and in the field.

The real question mark is who fills in for a few weeks until Ronald Acuna, Jr. returns to the outfield? The expectation has been that Marcel Ozuna will primarily serve as the designated hitter for Atlanta this year.

Ozuna is a former center fielder (those days are behind him) who can play left field in the interim while Brian Snitker plays around with the DH and keeps his players fresh to start.

Guillermo Heredia is another option to fill in playing outfield, but with that shortened Spring I think it is likely like Ozuna rotates in and out of the outfield rather than Snit settling into a consistent lineup, at least until early May. That is when Ronald Acuna Jr. is expected to be 100% healthy.

All told, this roster had made more headlines for who isn’t on it than for who is but the players who are on this team make up a squad that is tailored to run it back to the World Series and become the first back-to-back champions in over two decades.

Who’s On First

By: Charles Skipper

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

On March 14, 2022 the Atlanta Braves made a trade that shut one door on an era of the team’s history and opened another door on their future.

Alex Anthopoulos sealed a deal with the Oakland A’s that sent 4 prospects to Oakland in return for their starting first baseman Matt Olson.

Matt Olson, like his new teammate Dansby Swanson, played his high school ball in the Metro Atlanta area.

He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2012 out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, where he pitched and played first base for the 2011 and 2012 State Champion Panthers. The new Brave still holds the Gwinnett County record for wins and RBI.

Olson made his debut in the Show in 2016 when he got a September call up and appeared in 11 games. The number of games played increased to 59 in 2017. The young slugger saw his name penciled in the starting lineup for every game of the 2018 season.

A broken hand in 2019 and poor results in the Covid shortened 2020 season followed.

A full 2021 season saw Olson rebound to play 156 games and put-up solid numbers in all offensive categories. He hit for a .271 average, 39 HR, and 111 RBI and was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby and was named to the All-Star team.

Further honors for Olson were being named a finalist for both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

The natural inclination is to compare Olson to Freeman. The obvious method to compare players is by the statistics they compile. The last 3 years the numbers the 2 players put up are very similar.

Freeman hit for a .304 BA/82 HR/142 OPS. Olson registered a .257 BA/89 HR/134 OPS. The two players were almost identical in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with Freeman at 11.7 and Olson at 11.6.

The glaring difference in the performance numbers of the two first baseman is in the important category of hitting with runners in scoring position or RISP. Freeman ranks number 5 among all active players, while Olson comes in at 127th.

Professional Baseball has become consumed with the analytical side of the game. Many of today’s General Managers are young number crunchers whom have never played the game themselves. Analytics are evident in many of the in-game decisions and the infield shift is one of these type strategies based on numbers.

Another of these new analytical terms being used today is the aging curve. This is a fancy way to say the player is getting old.

The Braves with the trade for Olson are saying to me that the decision they made to let Freddie go was based more on his age at the length of a long-term contract than the money that was being discussed.

Within 24 hours long-term of signing Olson, Atlanta signed him to an 8 year 168 million-dollar contract extension, which is the largest in team history.

Ironically the previous largest contract for a Brave was a 5 year 135 million-dollar contract they gave Freeman.

Alex Anthopoulos has proven up to this point to be a shrewd GM and will be forever linked to the trading deadline deals that propelled Atlanta to the World Series title last season.

Hopefully years from now we will look back on the Olson trade as another smart decision by Anthopoulos.

Matt Olson grew up dreaming of playing for the Braves and fate has granted him his wish. History shows us that some players struggle early when they come to a new team and have a big contract to live up to.

Olson will have to handle the pressure of the big contract along with the ones that come from being a Hometown Kid and having to follow a player of Freeman’s stature.

Braves fans hope Olson can adjust quickly to his new team this season, be productive, and make us proud that he is the answer to the question Who’s On First?

 

Farewell Freddie

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Los Angeles Dodgers and All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman agreed to terms on a six-year, $162 million contract.

Earlier, Freeman sent this heartfelt message to Braves Country this week via Instagram:

Freeman wrote:

Braves Country,

I don’t even know where to begin. For the past 15 years I got to be a part of your organization. It was truly an honor. We went through the very highs together and some lows but those lows is what made last year so special. You watched me grow up from a baby faced kid to marrying my love @chelseafreeman5 and seeing us bring 3 beautiful boys into this world. I’m so glad my family got to be a part of yours! To Snit, my coaches, teammates, training staff, clubhouse staff, and everyone who made Turner Field and Truist Park so special for my family and I over the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a blast to have you cheer for me and I hope I was able to bring smiles to a lot of your homes over the years. I gave everything I had day in and day out and I hope you guys saw that as well. Although our time has come to an end, I look forward to seeing and playing in front of you all again. When that time comes, I hope you remember all the wonderful memories we made together. I love you Braves Country! Champions Forever!

Love,

Freddie, Chelsea, Charlie, Brandon, Maximus

After the Braves won their first World Series since 1995 the thought process switched to ‘ok now it is time to resign Freddie Freeman.’ When the lockout hit Braves fans are thinking when this thing is over the first thing Atlanta will do is resign Freddie Freeman.

Once the lockout ended the Freddie watch began. A few days passed and Braves fans like me started asking the question “Will the Braves really let Freddie Freeman walk away?”

We got our answer earlier this week when the Braves traded away center fielder Cristian Pache, catching prospect Shea Langeliers, and pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes to Oakland in return for first baseman Matt Olson.

Olson, an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, is considered a rising star in MLB circles. At 27 years old, Olson was then inked to an 8-year deal $168 million dollar contract with the Braves through 2030.

The Freddie Freeman era is now over in Atlanta. The realization that MLB is a brutal business comes to mind for the Atlanta fanbase. Here are Freddie’s career numbers as an Atlanta Brave:

At Bats: 5,767

Hits: 1,704

Runs: 969

RBI’s: 941

Batting Average: .295

Home Runs: 271

Freeman was putting together a Hall of Fame career in Atlanta. Now he is off to LA to play for the hated Dodgers.

Who for one second does not think Freddie will end up killing Braves pitching if these teams meet up in the playoffs?

Gone are the days where a player spends his entire career with one team. The sport is driven by money and analytics now.

Thank you, Freddie, for your service in Atlanta. You will be missed greatly. I hope the Braves retire #5 and that number is never worn again by an Atlanta Braves player. You came to Atlanta as a kid and left a decade or so later as a World Champion. Braves Country is eternally grateful to you.

Here is a question that never should have come to mind: If Freeman goes on and has an outstanding career in Los Angeles, does he go into Cooperstown as a Brave or a Dodger?

Can the money and analytic crowd answer that question?

Freddie, Freddie, Freddie

By: Charles Skipper

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The scene is Truist Park, home of the World Champion Atlanta Braves.

The Braves have found themselves in the last inning needing a rally to pull out the victory. The lineup card says it is the first baseman due up in the order.

The crowd starts to buzz and then erupts into a stadium wide chant. Freddie!! Freddie!!Freddie!! resonates throughout the park.

Freddie Freeman has been the starting first baseman for the Braves since the 2011 season. He has stepped into the batter’s box countless times over the years with his team needing him to deliver in order for them to come out on top. More times than not the 2020 National League MVP has done just that; he has delivered.

The franchise has added young stars to the roster in the past few years but number 5 has been the man they all followed and modeled their work habits after. Freddie not only excels on the field but he represents the organization with class, dignity and professionalism.

Fans in Braves Nation have been blessed to call a player of Freeman’s stature their own. Blessed as we have been, there is steeped anticipation as we await the players lockout to end and the 2022 season to begin.

The Braves and Freeman did not come to an agreement before the lockout so all talks are halted until the stalemate is over. There seems to be a disagreement between the club and Freeman over the length of the contract according to reports on the matter.

The Braves don’t spend money like they did in the days of the flamboyant owner Ted Turner but fans are hoping that they do know a sound business decision when they see one.

We have seen many Atlanta Braves stars, hometown favorites and even faces of the franchise at the time play in other uniforms towards the end of their careers.

The list includes names such as Glavine, Smoltz, Torre, Justice, Murphy, Neikro and even Mr. Brave himself Hank Aaron. The majority of these players were in the twilight of their careers and weren’t as productive with their new teams as they were with the Braves. This is not the case with Freddie Freeman.

There is no reason not to expect for him to put up MVP contention numbers for several more years to come. Long term contracts in professional sports are risky just by their nature.

Injuries, age, deteriorating skills are all things that contribute to the unknown in the quality of a player’s production. The Braves have reason for concern over any long term contract but please, this is not a standard contract or is this a standard player. This is a generational player whom has been the backbone of your team for nearly a decade.

Decisions in Major League front offices are based on many factors. Money is the number one factor that drives the choice as it does in most all business decisions.

When you attend a Braves game now it is a much different experience than a game at the two previous parks in Atlanta. It is more than a game, it is an event.

The Battery is a small city that is packed before and after the game. The area in front of the big screen is loaded with families on blankets, people playing catch, folks watching highlights on the screen.

All these people are spending money, lots of money due to some of the prices charged. Fans are asking the front office to do what they have been doing. They are asking them to spend their money to support the Braves just as they have.

Fans want the people in charge to take some of that gold mine they are sitting on and do whatever it takes to keep Freddie Freeman an Atlanta Brave for life.

Braves fans everywhere let us keep our fingers crossed and our hopes alive that once again with the game on the line we have the pleasure of hearing the hair raising chant…..Freddie!!Freddie!!Freddie!!

The Chopping Block

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Braves are the 2021 MLB World Series Champs.

While fans will be celebrating that championship for the next few months, baseball continues to move on and the offseason is here. Did Freddie Freeman take his last swing under his current contract with Atlanta?

Freeman just completed an eight-year, $135 million dollar contract that he signed in 2014. Freeman has accomplished everything possible in Atlanta. He is a five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger winner and MVP of the National League.

Freeman is the face of the franchise and there is a real possibility that the Braves will be back contending for a repeat title next season. Freeman will certainly receive a qualifying offer from Atlanta.

The Braves have eight players that have filed for free agency: Ehire Adrianza, Jesse Chavez, Chris Martin, Eddie Rosario, Drew Smyly, Steven Vogt and World Series MVP Jorge Solar. Frankly, I believe Freeman will be the only player to receive an offer.

Atlanta had options on three players. Josh Tomlin, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall. None of those options were picked up.

The Braves will get Ronald Acuna and Mike Soroka back from injuries, and the pitching staff received a boost with Kyle Wright showcased in the World Series.

The Braves have one of the best foundations for multiple years of success with top prospect Christian Pache and Drew Waters, who has a chance to win an Opening Day roster spot. Few organizations have a plentiful farm system like Atlanta.

Do the Braves pursue a top tier free agent this offseason? Here is a list of the top players available: Carlos Correa SS, Cory Seager SS, Max Scherzer P, Robbie Ray LHP, and many more.

Atlanta Braves fans celebrate the first World Series title since 1995. It was pretty clear throughout the World series this was a special team. After Solar hit the ball over the tracks, you could feel the Astros players and fans sigh.

The narrative for the 2022 offseason is to sign Freddie Freeman and become the hunted instead of the hunter.

 

We Are The Champions

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Braves are your 2021 World Series Champions!

That sounds pretty good doesn’t it Braves fans? This Braves team was not favored in a single series this postseason.

The Brewers, Dodgers, and the Astros all found out that the Atlanta Braves were a team of destiny in 2021. It has been a long 26 years since the last championship in 1995.

 

To give you some context here is what the world looked like in 1995:

Cost of Living in 1995

Average Cost of new house $113,150.00.

Average Income per year $35,900.00.

Average Monthly Rent $550.00.

Cost of a gallon of Gas $1.09.

US Postage Stamp 32 cents.

Average cost of new car $15,500.00.

 

To say it mildly a lot of things have changed in those 26 years.

Things looked bleak for 2021 when Ronald Acuna got hurt and was lost for the season with a torn ACL in early July in Miami.

The Braves were not really playing good baseball. At the time the Braves were trailing the Mets in the Eastern division. Actually, the Braves started the evolution to become a World champion back in 2017 when they hired Alex Anthopoulos as GM to clean up a huge mess in the Atlanta Braves Front office, whose illegal signings in Latin America cost the team 13 prospects, wrecked their ability to pursue premium international talent for two years and got the previous GM, John Coppolella, banned from the sport for life.

Anthopoulos, with the Braves not even playing .500 baseball at the time put together an outfield for the stretch run that may go down as some of the greatest moves in baseball history.

It started with Joc Pederson, who came in with a swagger that helped ignite the clubhouse. Pederson hit some big HRs down the stretch as the Braves started winning games. The Pearls became a fashion statement in Atlanta.

Eddie Rosario was brought in from Cleveland. Rosario had to get healthy once he got to Atlanta and then his bat paid dividends. Ask the Los Angeles Dodgers how good he is as Rosario was the NLCS MVP.

Adam Duvall was brought back in from Miami with his much-needed power added into the lineup.

Jorge Soler was brought in from Kansas City and hit a HR in game 6 of the World Series in Houston that landed in the Gulf of Mexico. Soler went on to become the World Series MVP.

These moves pieced together an outfield at the trade deadline that will be viewed as some of the greatest moves in baseball history.

The Atlanta Braves were playing sub-.500 ball until early August.

In fact, they were in third place in the NL East with a 52-55 record entering play on August 3. They went 36-18 in the final third of the season, which was enough to win the NL East by 6.5 games and were a red hot team entering the playoffs.

The bullpen, which struggled for most of the season, became lights out down the stretch run and in the postseason. Minter, Matzek, and Smith became a feared trio in the playoffs.

The magical season just ended in a World Championship for the City of Atlanta. Alex Anthopoulos deserves a lot of credit for building this roster and salvaging the season when things looked bleak. He deserves a huge raise.

Now the Braves need to get Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuna healthy, re-sign Freddie Freeman to a mega deal to make him a Brave for life, and decide what they are going to do with the championship pieces assembled at the trade deadline.

The Braves can worry about those items in a few weeks. Now is the time to celebrate your World Champion Atlanta Braves.

Turning The Ship Around

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is July 10th, and the Atlanta Braves (43-44) are playing the Miami Marlins (38-50).

Jazz Chisholm Jr. hits a ball into deep right field off Max Fried in the bottom of the 5th inning with Acuna Jr. tracking the ball in right field. Acuna leaps at the right field wall and lands awkwardly resulting in a season ending ACL tear for the Braves perennial MVP candidate.

I think I am speaking for all Braves fans when I say that the Acuna injury seemed to be the moment to write the Braves off for the 2021 season as they were struggling to stay at .500% in a less than thrilling NL East race.

However, Braves General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, and the rest of the organization thought differently and it’s turning out to be one of the best developing MLB storylines of the season.

Just about the only positive thing about Acuna’s injury for the Braves was the fact it happened before the MLB trade deadline, allowing the Braves to revamp their struggling outfield.

The Braves began their acquisitions by getting Joc Pederson from the Cubs on July 16th and proceeded to add Jorge Soler from the Royals, Eddie Rosario from Cleveland, and retrieved Adam Duvall from the Marlins all on July 30th.

These trades looked good when they were made and are seemingly only appearing to get better as they’ve helped completely turn the Braves struggling season around.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this was the fact that the Braves were able to make these moves without jeopardizing their future in salary space.

Bringing Adam Duvall back to Atlanta is proving to be one of the best moves of the year, not just at the deadline, as he currently leads the National League in RBIs.

Pederson, Rosario, and Soler have all put together many solid outings as well as making a few clutch plays late in games since arriving in Atlanta.

Not many people thought much of the Braves after the way the first half of the season looked, however, the main point of consistency throughout the season has been the Braves infield.

Freeman, Albies, Swanson, and Riley are each having career years, and each infielder has reached the 25+ home run mark on the season making them the second infield in MLB history to ever accomplish such a feat.

This new Braves outfield has helped this year’s injury riddled team turn the corner, turning a four-game division deficit into a division lead.

I have a feeling that this division title might be a little sweeter than years past and as we all know, anything can happen in the postseason.

The New Titan

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Prior to the NFL Draft in late April, Atlanta Falcons first year general manager Terry Fontenot talked about trading Julio Jones.

Since then, I’ve been waiting to see where he would end up. We don’t have to wait any longer because he was traded to the Tennessee Titans.

Atlanta will receive a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick for sending Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee. I think the Titans won this trade. Julio is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a top three wide receiver in the league at least. I think Atlanta should have received a first-round pick for him.

The Titans are already a good team, finishing 11 – 5 last season and winning the AFC South. The year before that they advanced to the AFC Championship game.

Tennessee has great skill players already. Derrick Henry led the league in rushing with 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 15th in the league in pass yards with 3,819. He is tied for 7th in passing TD’s with Deshaun Watson, throwing 33 of them with only 7 interceptions.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown had 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and 11 scores. Corey Davis had 65 catches for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. He signed with the New York Jets in the offseason, so Julio is essentially replacing him.

The Titans have not had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season since 2004. That should change in 2021. The biggest winner in the trade is Brown.

“It takes some of the tension off of me and with Derrick (Henry) and Ryan (Tannehill) with Anthony (Fisker),” Brown told ESPN on Sunday. “Having another dominant guy on the other side, everybody has to be honest. Now, you don’t know who’s going to hold who. I may get CB1 or Julio may get CB1. But whoever gets CB2, [that cornerback] is going to be in trouble. It’s going to be fun.”

Tennessee obviously likes to run the ball a lot with Henry and throw play action passes off of that. Defenses would normally have to put eight men in the box to try to slow him down.

They faced eight defenders in the box on 23.1% of their snaps last season, more than any other team in the NFL. Adding Julio makes it difficult to do that now. At this point they basically have to pick their poison.

Their former offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith left to take over as head coach in Atlanta after the 2020 season. Todd Downing is entering his first season as OC in Nashville.

“We’ll look for ways to get him singled up, ways to help him with different coverage indicators and things like that,” Downing said of Brown. “See where we can move him around, expand his route tree a little bit and watch him have success as we expand it.”

The Titans ranked 28th in total defense last year, giving up 398.3 yards per game and 27.4 points per game. They only had 19 sacks in 2020 which is ranked 30th.

They did try to address that in free agency, signing corner back Janoris Jenkins, linebackers Bud Dupree and Jayon Brown.

They also signed defensive tackles Trevon Coley and Denico Autry. They drafted Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley in the first round.

If Julio stays healthy, I think they will win the division again. The only AFC teams that are better on paper are Kansas City and Buffalo.

I’m looking forward to see how this season plays out and who Atlanta will draft with the picks they acquired.