Lelie Could Make A Difference In Atlanta's Offense

The team that may have benefited the most from Tuesday's three-way trade involving the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos is the Falcons.

Yes, the Redskins addressed a short-term need, getting T.J. Duckett to fill in at tailback if Clinton Portis's partially dislocated shoulder keeps him sidelined in the early stages of the regular season. Duckett potentially fits nicely into an offense overseen by Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders, providing a straightforward runner who can plow ahead for the tough yards, and he's an insurance policy in case Portis re-injures his shoulder. But when Portis is healthy, Duckett is only a backup.

And yes, the Broncos got some draft-pick compensation for wide receiver Ashley Lelie, who was holding out after being demoted to the No. 3 receiver role following the offseason acquisition of Javon Walker. But that's no immediate help for the Broncos, who perhaps would have been best served to find a way to get the speedy Lelie back into the fold to complement starting wideouts Rod Smith and Walker.

But the Falcons might have transformed their entire offense by getting Lelie, who can serve as a deep threat for quarterback Michael Vick. Lelie doesn't have to catch a lot of passes to be effective for the Falcons, who have the unproven duo of Michael Jenkins and Roddy White listed as their top two wide receivers. Lelie starts his Falcons tenure as their No. 3 receiver, replacing the injured Brian Finneran in that role, but moving ahead of Jenkins or White is not such a daunting task. If Lelie simply makes defenses respect the threat of the long ball, that would open space for Atlanta's running game and give tight end Alge Crumpler additional room to work. The Falcons had soured on Duckett before he had a solid training camp and are enamored with rookie running back Jerious Norwood, a third-round draft choice out of Mississippi State, as Warrick Dunn's backup.

The trade potentially is a positive development for all three teams, but it's the Falcons who seem to have the most prospective upside in the deal.

By Mark Maske |  August 23, 2006; 9:19 AM ET  | Category:  Falcons
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