Welcome Total Sports Blog’s NFL Training Camp Previews. Up until the start of the NFL season, we will continue to preview each team, and predict their records. The chances that we predict any of these records to be right drastically increases when Mike is writing the preview.
Today’s Team: The Atlanta Falcons (NFC South)
2013 Record: 4-12 (Last in NFC South)
Passing Leader: 4,515 YDS 26 TDS 17 INTS
Rushing Leader(s): 543 YDS 6 TDS
Receiving leader: Harry Douglas 1,067 YDS 6 TDS
Leading Tackler: Paul Worrilow 127 TCKLS
Sacks Leader: Osi Umenyiora 7.5 SACKS
Int Leader: William Moore 3 INTS
FA 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
FA signings: 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
The Atlanta Falcons had Super Bowl aspirations last year, only to see injury after injury to important contributors on both sides of the football cripples those chances. The Falcons offense took a step back, and it’s defense wasn’t very good at all.
Looking forward, a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White should help turn the Falcons fortunes around. When healthy, there might not be a better 1-2 receiving punch in the league (Chicago has a strong case with Marshall and Jeffrey). Harry Douglas is coming off a career best season and has the ability to be a deadly weapon in the slot. Jones set his personal goal for the season at 2,000 yards, and he definitely has the physical abilities to at least come close to that lofty number.
Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback, and he was one of the few bright spots on the team last year. If he has time, he can pick apart just about any defense in the league. The issue for the Falcons this year will be giving him time. Starting left tackle Sam Baker is already out for the entire 2014 season after suffering a torn patellar tendon, meaning No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews will slide over to left tackle. The Falcons are clearly high on Matthews after using their first round pick on him, but is he ready to protect Ryan’s blindside from the get-go? Atlanta already had some question marks surrounding its offensive line before it’s top player went down with injury. The o-lines performance will go a long way to determining how successful their season will be.
Atlanta’s defensive line will be the strength of this unit in 2014. New signings Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai don’t offer much against the pass, but are both stout against the run. That’s good news for the Falcons, who finished 31st in the league a year ago against the run. Falcons second round pick Ra’Shede Hageman fits the team’s defensive scheme perfectly and adds some nice depth along the line as well.
The Falcons linebacking corps has a lot of question marks. Sean Witherspoon tore his achilles tendon in June and will miss the 2014 season, leaving Paul Worrilow as the only proven player in the group.
Atlanta’s secondary is set already, with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford as the starting two corners and Dwight Lowry and William Moore as the safeties. Trufant has the potential to turn into a really solid CB, but the rest of Atlanta’s secondary still needs work.
As a whole, it looks like the Falcons run defense should be much better in 2014, but the pass defense still needs a lot of work.
As long as injuries don’t derail the season, the Falcons offense should be good enough to carry this team to at least 9 wins. A healthy Steven Jackson will go a long way, as he’s the only back on the roster that can really be a work horse. IF this defensive can at least keep opposing offenses at bay, Atlanta should be right in the thick of the NFC South race.
Prediction: 9-7 (2nd in NFC South)