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 Post subject: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:29 am 
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2014 NFL Offseason: Atlanta Falcons

Draft Grades, Season Previews, Team Needs, Free Agents


Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 4-12)

2014 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB T.J. Yates, TE Beat Pascoe, G Jon Asamoah, G Gabe Carimi, DE/DT Tyson Jackson, NT Paul Soliai, CB Josh Wilson, CB/KR Javier Arenas, S Dwight Lowery, KR Devin Hester.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Jake Matthews, DE/DT Ra'Shede Hageman, RB Devonta Freeman, DE/OLB Prince Shembo, CB Ricardo Allen. Falcons Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Jason Snelling, FB Bradie Ewing, TE Tony Gonzalez, G Garrett Reynolds, OLB Stephen Nicholas, ILB Akeem Dent, CB Asante Samuel, S Thomas DeCoud.

2014 Atlanta Falcons Offense:
Poor Matt Ryan was so helpless last year. Players around him were going down like flies. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson all missed action this past season. Jackson was out for four contests, but never looked right after he returned. White missed just two games, but he was clearly hobbled in the first half of the year, and he was pretty much just a decoy until December. Jones' absence hurt the most, however, as he was enjoying a dynamic season before he went down. Jones played five games, but was on pace for a ridiculous 1,856 receiving yards.

Jones and White should be back at full strength, but Ryan lost Tony Gonzalez to retirement this offseason. Gonzalez could always come back - he joked that he would return if Atlanta began the year with a 10-0 record - but it's looking like the team will have to move forward with Levine Toilolo as its starting tight end. This means that the Falcons will utilize more three-receiver sets. Harry Douglas proved himself worthy of more playing time when he racked up 85 catches and 1,067 receiving yards when Jones and/or White were out of the lineup.

Jackson, however, is a different story. He turns 31 in late July, so there's a chance that his ineffectiveness last season was the product of his aging body; not the injury that knocked him out for a quarter of the year. Jackson will get another chance to prove himself, but the Falcons spent a fourth-round pick on Devonta Freeman, who was terrific in rookie minicamp.

One area that really hurt Ryan this past season was the offensive line. Ryan took 44 sacks in 2013, the highest total in his career (previous high was 28). Thus, it's no surprise that the Falcons did multiple things this offseason to improve Ryan's protection.

Atlanta began by hiring Mike Tice. The former Bears' offensive line coach was responsible for turning around a very weak front that always had Jay Cutler running for his life. He's capable of working the same magic in Atlanta, especially given that the team used the No. 6 overall selection on Jake Matthews. The Texas A&M product was once considered as a potential choice for the Rams at No. 2 overall, and he's viewed by many as the safest rookie in the class. Matthews will begin his career at right tackle across from Sam Baker, who will be manning the blind side. Baker was atrocious in four games in 2013, but was bothered by a knee injury. He's coming off surgery and should be better with Tice's tutelage, as long as he's healthy.

The Falcons also bolstered the interior of the front by signing Jon Asamoah away from the Chiefs. Asamoah is a solid blocker who figures to start at right guard, joining Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley inside. Blalock was solid at left guard this past season, while Hawley proved to be a massive upgrade at center once the team started him there over the inept Peter Konz.





2014 Atlanta Falcons Defense:
The Falcons didn't just focus on improving their offensive line. They made numerous additions on defense as well, as they mainly focused on bolstering the trenches.

Atlanta signed two key free agents there - Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai - and spent its second-round choice on Ra'Shede Hageman. Jackson and Hageman are ideal fits as 3-4 ends. Hageman is a raw player who has tons of upside. He's not ready to start yet, so he'll play behind Jonathan Babineaux, who is coming off a solid, all-around season. Jackson, meanwhile, doesn't offer anything in terms of a pass rush, but he's a monstrous run-stuffer. The same can be said for Soliai, who will be a big upgrade at nose tackle.

Many figured the Falcons would find a new pass-rushing linebacker, but that never happened. There were rumors about Atlanta moving up for Jadeveon Clowney, and to a lesser extent, Khalil Mack, but nothing ever surfaced. In fact, the Falcons never addressed the position until the fourth round when they selected Prince Shembo out of Notre Dame. Shembo probably won't be ready to play - and if he is, he may even be used at inside linebacker - so he likely won't unseat Kroy Biermann this year. Biermann is an average player who tore his Achilles last September. He almost certainly won't be 100 percent even though Atlanta will ask him to get to the quarterback with Osi Umenyiora, who wasn't as impressive as the 7.5 sacks he accumulated in 2013 indicate he was.

Atlanta planned on using Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow at inside linebacker. Weatherspoon, a former first-rounder, is yet another player who missed extensive time in 2013. That may have been a blessing in disguise, however, as it helped the coaching staff find Worrilow, who led the team with 127 tackles. Worrilow isn't great or anything, but he definitely proved himself worthy of being a capable starter. Unfortunately, disaster struck this offseason, as Weatherspoon tore his Achilles in June. His absence will once again be huge.

Aside from Weatherspoon, the only real defensive starter the Falcons lost was safety Thomas DeCoud, but his departure isn't a big deal because he may have been the worst regular player on Atlanta's stop unit. Unfortunately for the team, it didn't really find an upgrade for DeCoud, opting instead to sign Dwight Lowery, who was waived by the Jaguars of all teams last year. The Falcons spent a third-round pick on Dezmen Southward to perhaps challenge Lowery, but Southward was considered a reach. Either way, it's not looking good in terms of the spot next to William Moore.

Atlanta at least has the cornerback position figured out. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, chosen in the first and second rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft, respectively, both were effective starters in 2013. That's especially true for Trufant, who performed exceptionally. The Falcons did lose Asante Samuel this offseason, but he was just a depth player at this point in his career. Besides, they more than made up for it by signing Josh Wilson away from the Redskins. With Wilson and Robert McClain on the roster, Atlanta is very deep at corner.





2014 Atlanta Falcons Schedule and Intangibles:
In five seasons, Matt Ryan is 37-12 in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons were 3-5 at home this past season, but they were 4-12 overall.

The Falcons were pretty mediocre in terms of the return game. No touchdowns were scored for or against them for the second straight season.

Matt Bryant has been one of the top kickers in the NFL over the past four years. He was 28-of-31 in 2010, 27-of-29 in 2011, 33-of-38 in 2012 and 24-of-27 last season. He's 10-of-12 from 50-plus in that span. He's also very clutch.

Matt Bosher ranked 11th in net average in 2012, but improved this past season, finishing sixth. He was in the middle of the pack in terms of placing kicks inside the 20.

Atlanta has a somewhat tough schedule. Playing the Saints twice, Packers, Bears, Bengals (road), Ravens (road) and Cardinals will be difficult.



2014 Atlanta Falcons Rookies:
Go here for the Falcons Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.



2014 Atlanta Falcons Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):

Quarterbacks


Offensive Line


Secondary

Running Backs


Defensive Line


Special Teams

Receivers


Linebackers


Coaching



2014 Atlanta Falcons Analysis: The Falcons will rebound, and because expectations are down, they'll surprise many of their opponents. They had so many injuries this past season, so as long as they stay mostly healthy - beyond Sean Weatherspoon, of course - they'll compete for a wild card spot, or perhaps even the division title. Remember, they nearly beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship in January 2013, so they could easily bounce back to that level.

Projection: 9-7 (2nd in NFC South)

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:45 pm 
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If the main characters stay healthy and if the TE position can grab 60-70 balls, the playoffs are within reach. You cannot control injuries, but you can control scheme.

It will be an interesting season to say the least.


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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:15 pm 
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Quote:
Remember, they nearly beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship in January 2013, so they could easily bounce back to that level.


What a bunch of s***........ We can't bounce back to the 2013 level, we've acted like we've really upgraded our line, where in fact its still below average, and our defensive line has no pass rush.......

The thing about the falcons is when they have good teams they don't know it,,,,,, when they suck they figure that out by the end of the season....

Injuries will happen, we're not ready for even one!!

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:42 pm 
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I can't really fault us too much for not acquiring another pass rusher. We are switching to a 3-4 scheme, and we seem to have plenty of candidates to play 3-4 OLB already on the team. We couldn't fill every hole in the off-season, and the odds of us drafting a 10 sack OLB with our #2 pick were pretty slim.

I think that we had two big, "failings," this off-season. The first is that we didn't pick up another starting quality WR. Our run game should be better this year. But if it's not, then we will be right back where we were last year if Roddy or Julio go down. Harry Douglas cannot sub for Julio Jones. I don't know that we have anyone on Roster who can. And that's a problem.

The second is that we didn't find another pass catching TE. With Gonzo gone, we have a total of three regular pass catching options... Jones, White, and Douglas. After that, we have backups/scrubs.

I think that our offseason moves are another example of tunnel vision. We only see the most obvious needs, we don't see the stuff that's just beneath the surface. We have a QB that's more than capable of spreading the ball around, that we're not bringing in targets for him to throw to is beyond me.


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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:45 pm 
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I have always believed that Matt Ryan compared favorably to Tom Terrific the big game heroics. He seems to be able to emulate Tom on a smaller scale. Where I believe they are similar players are when it comes to how deadly they can be when protected. The Falcons have improved the O-line dramatically from last year. Personally, I think the OL will be the wildcard and will determine how the season goes. If they gel quickly and are able to protect Ryan I believe he will be able to carve up any and every defense we face this year. IF the offense stays healthy I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete for a wild card spot.

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:20 am 
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My gut feeling is that we have an 8-8 season this year. Usually (2013 being the main exception), I underestimate the win total by 1 or 2 games, so that means 9-7 or 10-6 is definitely in reach.

But part of the reason is that while I think the Falcons have improved in certain areas, they are still going to be heavily reliant on their best players to stay healthy. And after last season, I have little confidence in that. Not to say that injuries will plague us like they did last year, but a missed game here and there will cost us moreso than other players because we are a very top-heavy team when it comes to talent.

The key will be the OL. If they suddenly become good this year, then things should be good. I think they'll be better, but we could easily see Jake Matthews struggle as a rookie like last year's top OTs did, Jon Asamoah be a bad fit in the blocking scheme, Blalock revert back to the average Blalock, Hawley struggle, and Baker be Baker. And if that happens, then we'll be lucky to win 8 games. But it could just as easily see Matthews be All-rookie level, Asamoah be a huge upgrade, Blalock continue to play well, and Hawley step up, and even if Baker is still Baker, that's going to be an above average to good unit.

The defense? We're hoping for bend but don't break, but that will be largely be based off the offense putting up points that makes their job a lot easier.

My best guess for the NFC South:

1. New Orleans - 11-5
2. Tampa Bay - 9-7
3. Atlanta - 8-8
4. Carolina - 7-9

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:59 am 
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Pudge wrote:
My best guess for the NFC South:

1. New Orleans - 11-5
2. Tampa Bay - 9-7
3. Atlanta - 8-8
4. Carolina - 7-9


I guess you are in the camp that believes Tampa Bay is about to have a resurgence of sorts. I just don’t believe in Josh McCown, dude was a gym teacher/assistant high school football coach 2 years ago for a reason. I know he put up some impressive numbers, but his best games were against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. He only registered one win against a defense in the top 20 (Baltimore week 11).

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:18 pm 
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The Mattural wrote:
Pudge wrote:
My best guess for the NFC South:

1. New Orleans - 11-5
2. Tampa Bay - 9-7
3. Atlanta - 8-8
4. Carolina - 7-9


I guess you are in the camp that believes Tampa Bay is about to have a resurgence of sorts. I just don’t believe in Josh McCown, dude was a gym teacher/assistant high school football coach 2 years ago for a reason. I know he put up some impressive numbers, but his best games were against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. He only registered one win against a defense in the top 20 (Baltimore week 11).


Agree. Tampa will blow and Carolina will fall back to earth with a thud. Jury is still out on the Saints. Brees can carry a team, but they aren't what they were....


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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:07 pm 
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From 2010-12, the Bears won 29 games with an offense that never finished higher than 24th in total offense. Josh McCown can't carry that team of course, but he doesn't have to.

They have 2 elite players on their defense, a RB that is more than capable of getting 1300+ yards and 2 WRs that will be extremely difficult matchups for most teams they face.

They get Baltimore, GB, and Cincinnati at home (Falcons go on the road against all 3), with their toughest road games out of the division being Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago, not exactly juggernauts.

Whether or not the Bucs become a fixture atop the NFC South for years to come remains to be seen, but they should definitely get that typical Year 1 surge from having a new head coach like Lovie Smith. If Greg Schiano can add 3 wins to their total in Year 1 with LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, & Kellen Winslow as his best skill position players, what is Lovie gonna do with Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans?

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:22 am 
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I have always believed that Matt Ryan compared favorably to Tom Terrific the big game heroics.

I have never thought Matt Ryan even reminded me of Tom Terrific, that's why we only won 4 last year!! We're in Matt's prime!!

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:28 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
From 2010-12, the Bears won 29 games with an offense that never finished higher than 24th in total offense. Josh McCown can't carry that team of course, but he doesn't have to.

They have 2 elite players on their defense, a RB that is more than capable of getting 1300+ yards and 2 WRs that will be extremely difficult matchups for most teams they face.

They get Baltimore, GB, and Cincinnati at home (Falcons go on the road against all 3), with their toughest road games out of the division being Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago, not exactly juggernauts.

Whether or not the Bucs become a fixture atop the NFC South for years to come remains to be seen, but they should definitely get that typical Year 1 surge from having a new head coach like Lovie Smith. If Greg Schiano can add 3 wins to their total in Year 1 with LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, & Kellen Winslow as his best skill position players, what is Lovie gonna do with Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans?

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I understand where you are coming from Pudge. I can see Lovie adding 3-4 wins to their total, but that only has them at 8-8 at best and thats what I see.

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:52 pm 
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Cyril wrote:
I have always believed that Matt Ryan compared favorably to Tom Terrific the big game heroics.

I have never thought Matt Ryan even reminded me of Tom Terrific, that's why we only won 4 last year!! We're in Matt's prime!!


Matt Ryan and tom Brady have similar traits arm strength, mechanics, accuracy, and most importantly the cool demeanor late in games. Tom of course has better pocket mobility and has been better late in "big" games. The same way Cam Newton is a similar QB to Big Ben sure there are differences but both of their games are comparable.

People say that Brady will win no matter what skill players are around him. Had he been in a situation with no skill players, no protection, and was not backed by a top 10 scoring defense I wonder how successful the Patriots would have been? We only won four games because Matt Ryan was not only put in that situation but he also was forced to score more than 27 points a game on average. In contrast to Brady only had to muster 21 points on average with way better protection and a running game.

I do believe that Brady would have won more than four games if he was the QB of the Falcons last year but not many more maybe two more.

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:24 pm 
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Difference between Ryan and Brady is that Brady isn't afraid to make tight-window throws downfield. And that my friends, is the difference between Ryan and the other Top 16 QBs in the league.

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:44 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
Difference between Ryan and Brady is that Brady isn't afraid to make tight-window throws downfield. And that my friends, is the difference between Ryan and the other Top 16 QBs in the league.


Afraid to or coached not too? Smitty isn't exactly Belichick when it comes to having big brass balls. Smitty preaches ball control and turning it over on a forced throw goes against his beliefs. Until the defense can actually go out there stop somebody, we can't afford to be turning the ball over.


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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 12:17 am 
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i DON'T think Ryan's arm is as strong, that's why he can't make those tight throws. If he could make them he would, now of course I'm not talking about a weak arm or anything like that, its just a shade weaker and that makes all the difference in those tight passes!!

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 12:23 am 
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Quote:

I do believe that Brady would have won more than four games if he was the QB of the Falcons last year but not many more maybe two more.


Yes I'd say that's right...... Ryan is very good, but Brady has just been on top for years......

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 Post subject: Re: a 9-7 season, 2nd in the division...
PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:37 pm 
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AngryJohnny51 wrote:
Afraid to or coached not too?

Both.

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