2014 Season Preview
Ok, let me admit again, I had the Falcons in the Superbow last year. Yup, sure did. I felt that we were going to get Jerome Bettis 2.0 and that offensive firepower would roll like the Saints and that secondary would be great.
Of course, I was wrong, as the offensive line fell apart and both wideouts got hurt, the secondary went downhill, and the run defense was made out of tissue paper.
How will the team rebound? Like the Texans, this team has some very good pieces to build around, but how will they rebound from a soul-crushing year?
The Offensive Line had some problems last year, like spending too much time on their backsides. Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo were gone, the thinking was Konz and Holmes would replace them and were younger and cheaper. Oops. Both will not be starting going into camp. The Falcons have replaced them with Sam Baker and Joe Hawley. The big addition here will be Jake Matthews, who should walk into the RT role, if not LT by the end of camp. The Falcons are going to spend a lot of time throwing lineups together, and trying to see what will stick. Ryan is going to spend a lot of time under pressure- but he has a quick release, so its not horrible. But this line is. If Sam Baker is back to 100%, Jake Matthews is solid and either Gabe Carimi or Jon Asamoah come to play, then Mike Tice will deserve a monster raise.
The Falcons running game was dead last in yards per game. I expected Steven Jackson to push 1500 yards, but he didn’t even hit the 1K mark- and Jacquizz Rodgers didn’t exactly make anyone thing he was anything but a stopgap back. Adding to this unit will be 4th Rounder Devonta Freeman from FSU who is a one direction runner, but considering the Falcons don’t have a a good fullback, might have some problems on 3rd and 1. The running game should reflect the offensive line, and that might not be a good thing. I’m still a big fan of Stephen Jackson, and I do expect this unit to do better.
The Falcons have a star at QB. Ryan possesses everything you want from a quarterback, and his quick release most likely cost the Falcons the top overall pick. You lost both your top weapons, your running game is dead last, and your offensive line would be better off chanting one- Mississippi-two-Mississippi before letting the pass rush though, and he completes 67% of his passes? 26TDs to 17 Picks? Yeah, hurt my feeling there QB1. Dominique Davis is the backup. Lets just move on like the Falcons will if Ryan goes down.
The Receivers are a Madden Dream. Julio Jones and Roddy White are just a tandem we all would love to have on our teams. Julio was stopped with 41 catches in 5 weeks, on pace for a monster year. Add in Harry Douglas who had a very good year given the chance to be a starter. The big problem here was only Tony Gonzalez caught more than 3 TDs. Having 10 players catch TDs is a great thing if you are the Saints, not so much when so much of your cap and picks have gone to Roddy and Julio. Devin Hester brings his talents to Georgia, and he’s wanting to get on the turf early and often. Tony Gonzalez is gone, sad to say, and there are FOUR Tight Ends on the training camp roster trying to get that starting spot- with Bear Pascoe (Blocking) and Levine Toilolo (Tall) the best bets to win out.
Mike Nolan has always been a solid DC. Everywhere he has gone he has done a great job- unless he has the top job.
Then . . . not so good. Mike Smith is always around here as well, so you have to wonder how these two let the defense get so bad in a year after going 13/10/13 wins the previous 3 years. The Problems start with the Defensive Line, going 29th in the league in rushing defense, and 29th in sacks.
Second Rounder Ra’Shede Hageman will help, as will Tyson Jackson, who was a bust in KC, and Paul Soliai from the Dolphins. There is talent here, but lets be honest, there is a LOT of room for growth. Osi Umenyiora will also get some spot duty here as well on passing downs.
The next level back got carpet bombed in the draft, with picks in round 4,5, and both seventh rounders on this unit. The Falcons also got some good play last year from Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, who were both surprises, and Sean Weatherspoon is expected to have a good bounceback year, but he has issues staying healthy. This unit is going to be interesting to watch, with a lot of bodies moving around and seeing what jells. I get the feeling the week 1 group will not be the week 17 group. I’m not sure how good its going to be, but I think this group will be a hard working group, who still needs to replace Curtis Lofton.
The final line in the sand is the defensive backs, and without Asante Samuel and Thomas DeCloud, there are new faces here as well, I could see both CB Ricardo Allen and S Dezmen Southward being paired up on one side and last years rookies Trufant and Lowrey on the other side. That is one young group back there, but the Falcons do play a lot of nickel defense, and Robert McClain is fighting for his job.
Matt Bryant is a solid kicker, and the return game picks up an excellent player in Devin Hester- who isn’t what he was, but he’s a top returner still. The Falcons were 10th in Kickoff return yardage, the problem is they got way too much practice.
My Thoughts are Here
The Wheels came off, and came off HARD last year. Looking back it kind of ticks me off I didn’t see it coming. The offense is going to be good, they could be VERY good if that line keep Ryan from getting crushed and that running game does squat. The defense is going to be interesting. The Falcons are just pounding players in and out. Training camp is going to be fascinating to watch with 7 DTs fighting for spots, 7 DEs, 8 LBs and 13 DBs all looking to impress. Nolan is one guy I’d be ok figuring this out. Could they all jell quickly? No. Do I wish my Panthers were playing them early in the year rather than later? You bet.
The Falcons have most of their harder games spread out, but the issue is a lot of the toughest ones are on the road (Cincy, Minny, Giants, Ravens, GB) I would not want to see Peterson on my opponents fantasy team in week 4.
I’m looking at a LONG season here. Splitting wins with Tampa, going 1-5, maybe 2-4 if they can get a split with Carolina, but wins over Cleveland, Arizona and possibly Pitt- and closer games than it may seem with the Packers/Saints/Panthers will get the Falcon Faithful excited for their 6-10 team. If Nolan lives, he should have them ready for 2015 to return to the playoffs.
EJ: The Falcons fell off last year. FELL OFF! On paper this is a pretty good team, but there are major questions with the offensive and defensive lines, and I have some serious questions about the secondary. Matt Ryan is a good quarterback, Jones and White is an excellent tandem at receiver, but if that offensive line doesn’t give him the time to throw or to allow Jackson, Rodgers, and Freeman the chance to run the ball, it’s going to be ugly in Atlanta. Real ugly.
As David mentioned the defensive line does have some talent, but players like Tyson Jackson needs to step up. If they can’t rush the QB, that secondary is going to get picked apart by the likes of Brees, Stafford, and Rodgers. Looking at the schedule, I’m going to have to say 6-10 with an outside shot at 8-8 if things break their way. There are some talented names on the roster, but just not enough to challenge the Saints or Panthers for this division.
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