this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Falcons' linebacker hoping to stay healthy this time By GEORGE HENRY, Associated Press Writer November 24, 2006 FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Since he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in March 2004, Ed Hartwell has yet to play against his ...
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Atlanta is Geared up for the Saints
Falcons' linebacker hoping to stay healthy this time
By GEORGE HENRY, Associated Press Writer
November 24, 2006
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) -- Since he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in March 2004, Ed Hartwell has yet to play against his team's No. 1 rival, the New Orleans Saints.
The sixth-year linebacker started the first five games of 2005, but he missed 19 of the last 21 with sore knees and a torn Achilles' tendon.
Hartwell will return to the field Sunday at the Georgia Dome, where he had four tackles in an overtime win over Pittsburgh five weeks ago.
"I'm good to go," Hartwell said Friday. "I feel great, my knees feel great, and I'm ready to play some football."
With both Hartwell and defensive end John Abraham off the injury report this week, the Falcons (5-5) should regain two well-paid defensive playmakers. Atlanta has lost three straight, though most of the blame belonged to the offense and special teams in the last two games.
The matchup against New Orleans (6-4) seems to favor the pass-happy Saints. Having allowed an average of 270.8 yards since New York's Eli Manning threw for 145 in the Giants' Week 6 win at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons' pass defense fell 16 spots to 29th.
Behind quarterback Drew Brees, New Orleans is the only team to reach 3,000 yards passing this season. With 43 catches of at least 20 yards, the Saints trail only Philadelphia (46), but rookie receiver Marques Colston, who ranks second in the NFC and sixth overall with 869 yards receiving, is questionable with an ankle sprain.
New Orleans has dropped three of its last four to lose sole possession of first place in the NFC South and fall into a tie with Carolina. But Brees can still count on Joe Horn (600 yards, four touchdowns), Devery Henderson (390, three TDs) and rookie running back Reggie Bush (61 catches).
Hartwell, however, focuses his concern only on the Falcons.
"We have to get some pressure from our front seven," Hartwell said. "Patrick Kerney is out for the rest of the year, but getting back Abe and myself will make a difference."
After landing on season-ending injured reserve with an Achilles' tendon injury in Week 5 last year, Hartwell underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees following an exhibition game at Tennessee three months ago.
He avoided having either knee drained, but swelling recurred after the Steelers game, and doctors told him that rest was the only solution.
"Maybe I came back too soon," Hartwell said. "That's not the point now. What matters is that I'm ready to help my team and get out there and make some plays. I can't wait."
Hartwell's return to middle linebacker means Keith Brooking switches to weakside LB and Demorrio Williams becomes the nickel linebacker.
The Falcons need Hartwell, but Abraham, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, could make a bigger impact. In just two games, Abraham has eight tackles, three sacks for minus-32 yards, three forced fumbles and one pass breakup.
Abraham underwent abdominal surgery last month. His presence would take pressure off the secondary, which is without nickel back Kevin Mathis (season-ending neck surgery) and right cornerback Jason Webster (groin).
Rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams, a second-round draft pick, was inactive last week with a nagging high ankle sprain that's contributed to his recording just two tackles, no interceptions and no pass breakups this year.
"We've had our starting defensive line together for one snap this year," coach Jim Mora said. "We haven't had our starting defense together for a single snap this year. So you always go into the year with a plan, but you just have to be really able to adjust, and that is what we've been doing. You find out about guys as you go."
They know this game can put them out of the play off race almost completly. The same goes for us. In our case we lose, we will not be in control of our own future. We will be looking for alot help from other teams in order to make it in.