NEW YORK — Falcons general manger Thomas Dimitroff made his annual trip through radio row at the Super Bowl Thursday. When he was finished, Darryl Ledbetter and I had a private audience with him. Darryl will have a full story later on MyAJC.com on some of Dimitroff’s plans this offseason but here are a few comments that stood out to me:
— Ignore speculation that he or any NFL team is down on former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney: “I’ll just say what everybody in the country knows: Jadeveon Clowney is a top notch talent and he’s going to make a team happy and he’s going to be a legitimate difference-maker in this game. The people with the top two picks know that.”
— The obvious suggestion there is that Clowney may go in the first two picks. The Falcons are slated to pick No. 6. Could they trade up? Possible, especially with two former Falcons’ executives now running other teams at No. 2 (Les Snead at St. Louis) and No. 3 (Dave Caldwell at Jacksonville). Dimitroff did not close the door to the possibility of a trade up but it’s doubtful he would part with a lot. Comment: “The top 10 in the 2014 draft is a group of top notch players. So we’re not going to be disappointed if we’re picking in the top 10.”
— Dimitroff had his most candid comments yet on what the Falcons’ lack, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines: “We need to focus on getting more gritty and rugged in certain areas. That’s going to be more important for us. This is a warrior game and we have to come to the line of scrimmage with the proper mentality. … We realize we need to ramp up our ruggedness, not only on the field but off the field, in the locker room.”
— On gaining insight into some players who were forced into significant roles last season, largely because of injuries: “Unfortunately, going 4-12 allows you to experiment with a lot of different personnel groupings, which we never would’ve done if we were a 13-3 team. … We were mindful [of that] going into the fifth or sixth game.”
In other words, the thought process for the 2014 season began very early this season. D-Led will have more later.