Atlanta Falcons 2014 Preview

Raise your hand if you picked the Atlanta Falcons to do big things last year. . . Come on now, it wasn’t just me. The Atlanta Falcons seemed to become depleted on both sides of the line of scrimmage and got hit with the injury bug, which ultimately made future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez’ last season – a forgettable one.
matt-ryan-falcons
Quarterback Matt Ryan is the glue for this team and although last season was by far his worst, it was one that should help in his growth as the franchise QB of the Falcons. With a season ending injury to Julio Jones and Roddy White battling injuries all season long, his options at wideout were limited. Even running back Steven Jackson, was riddled with injuries all season long so Ryan couldn’t rely on a strong running game either. Add to the fact that the offensive line was about as strong as a lamp-shade – the fact that Ryan was still able to throw for over 4500 yards last season is remarkable. Matt Ryan’s talents were never questioned, but his toughness and leadership was. Last year, Ryan was sacked 44 times and you’d be hard-pressed to not see him get up after being sacked and command his team back to the huddle. His vision at the line of scrimmage had improved last year, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough talent around him to execute those visions. This season, Matt Ryan will continue to prove to the fans of Atlanta that he is worth the money and worthy of the title “Franchise Quarterback” because the Falcons will return at full strength.
The wide receiver tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White were expected to light things up last season but that expectation fell way short due to injuries. Julio Jones has a the size and skill to be a top 5 wide out in the league for the next 6-7 years. He’s one of the most difficult to cover before the catch and one of the hardest to stop after the catch. Roddy White at times just speaks when he shouldn’t but in his career (until last season) he’s been consistent. He’s had six seasons of straight 1000 yard, six touchdown performances and last year, while battling ailments all season, he tried to tough it out for 13 games and caught over 700 yards. Someone who made the most of a lost season was Harry Douglas. With White and Jones occupying the one and two slots, Douglas was primarily the slot receiver but when his number was called last year, he answered with a 1000 yard season – proving that when healthy, the Falcons have a very formidable three man receiver attack. With Tony Gonzalez now retired, the Falcons lose a leader, the best tight end in the history of the NFL and Matt Ryan’s security blanket. That wouldn’t be replaced even if this draft was best tight end class in history or if they signed two pro bowl tight ends in the off-season. Regardless, the Falcons will have to see what they get out of their tight end duo of Bears Pascoe and Levine Toilolo. The offensive line is still a question mark as it seems to be rookie Jake Matthews lining up alongside a bunch of guys who were projected to do well but never found their way like Gabe Carimi and Peter Konz.
After seeing Steven Jackson battle through injuries last season, don’t be surprised to see a share of the backfield load between him and Florida State rookie Davonta Freeman.
Roddy White,  Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Defensively the Falcons were a week to week struggle. At least management noticed that and spent 7 of their nine draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. Ra’Shede Hageman was the University of Minnesota DT the Falcons drafted in the second round and if in a 4-3 set next to free agent signing Paul Soliai, he should be able to find himself free to make an impact in his rookie campaign. The Falcons also spent money on free agent Tyson Jackson, a defensive end who specializes against the run. The Falcons are still hoping that the corner backs they selected last season Marcus Trufant and Robert Alford will be the corners of the future. They got worked for the most part of last season due to the fact that teams were able to do whatever they wanted against the Falcons defense. Hopefully the confidence isn’t already shaken on the two young men, who came into the league with a lot of promise. The Falcons got better on defense, but that’s in comparison to what this unit was last year, which was awful. The Falcons hoped to catch lightning in a bottle by signing special teams legend Devon Hester into the mix. Hester has definitely lost a step, but luckily for him that still makes him faster than 80% of the league. Hester got caught a few times last year when he got into the habit of trying to do too much at times in the return game. Hester is actually an interesting signing because if he can turn the field position in favor of the Falcons at least a few times in the season, it may be enough for this offense to pull off games that last season they couldn’t.
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The NFC South is an interesting division and it looked like it would be the Falcons to control for years to come until last year when they got smacked back into reality.

Pro Bowl Selections: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Paul Soliai, Marcus Trufant
2014 Prediction: 8-8
G.W. Gras
Twitter @GeeSteelio

4 comments:

  1. That's funny....all that's different on offense from 2012 is Tony Gonzalez. On defense, few teams will be able to run on the Falcons this time around. But all they can do is 8-8? Oh well, not every news source can have a competent writer....

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  2. Instead of predicting these guys, let them play ball, they are the one's who have to show themselves approved, I'm not with them but I'm sure not against them either cause they have broken my heart too many times in the past, if Ryan wants to win a super-bowl under this contract to put his name up there with the big boys then he has to show more leadership for the whole teams sake, whether is offense, defense or special teams, you have to be a leader, it makes players around you want to perform.

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