I suppose on the bright side this defense has two Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates in Worrilow & Trufant.
Worrilow: 71 Solo Tackles, 43 Assisted Tackles, 1 Sack, 4 Tackles for Loss, 1 PD
Trufant: 52 Solo Tackles, 13 Assisted Tackles, 2 INT's. 16 PD
Worrilow's numbers are impressive considering he didn't even start the first few weeks of the season. Desmond Trufant can be considered among the leagues Top DB's as pointed out by the Falcoholic at SB Nation (http://bit.ly/1bostSn
). Even Joplo Bartu has had a great rookie campaign with 79 Combined Tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 PD.
So the Falcon defense has plenty of young players with bright futures (Trufant, Bartu, Worrilow). Good enough to end the reign of Dent and relegate him back to the bench while making us forget about Nicholas; while Trufant likely makes Samuel a cap causality this coming off season.
The bigger issue on the defense thanks to those players is fixing the defensive line (which has more to do with bringing back Babs on the cheap and adding at least 1 upper tier DE). One could also include axing DeCoud and bringing in a replacement for him as well.
Then there is the offense which is chiefly about fixing the hideous offensive line.
I don't think Atlanta's stay at the bottom will be long assuming Dimitroff & Co. can patch up the defensive and offensive lines. They'll be in prime position to get an elite offensive tackle. I'd love to get Matthew's to get a proper starting Right Tackle and move Holmes over to Left Tackle and have Baker either off the bench or a cap casualty.
This year was frustrating but I'm not so sure that this team is as bad as it appeared during the season and still hasn't reached full on rebuild status largely thanks to some of the performances from younger players.
You pretty much nailed it. Aside from, as Pudge mentioned, drafting an offensive tackle with our first pick of the draft, I would pretty much agree with everything you said.
I think acquiring one of JaDeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr, or Khalil Mack is a must. I'm a believer that if you fix the pass rush, you will see a boost in the secondary on this team (which may allow us to give DeCoud one more year to improve / re-prove himself.) I think the talent drops off a little after Clowney, but Barr and Mack can definitely still get after the quarterback better than any of our other pass rushers.
Even with Gonzalez set to retire and Jackson looking like he's no where near the same running back that he was in St. Louis, I still think this team has plenty of weapons to play with as long as we fix the offensive line. We've discussed how to do that already, so I won't get into too much detail. But I just wish we address one or both of the lines in free agency. I'm curious how much you guys think a guy like Michael Oher will cost us? I know he's struggled guarding the blind side (no pun intended) in the past, but it's looking like Sam Baker will be getting a good shot at regaining his starting spot back when he returns from his injury next year.