The Atlanta Falcons: How Do They Get Back To Winning Ways?

2014-10-02 10:31:43
The Atlanta Falcons: How Do They Get Back To Winning Ways?
Thursday, October 2, 2014, 10:31:45 AM

What can the Atlanta Falcons do to get back to winning ways? Was the 2013 season an aberration or will 2014 be much the same?

In the first part of 3 articles, we explore what the Falcons have and what they need, part 2 investigates who the Falcons could cut and what free agents they have, and in part 3 I look into what free agents the Falcons could peruse and some possible draft choices.  

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What the Falcons have.

Despite a disastrous season in 2013 the Falcons have kept faith in head coach Mike Smith who has suffered his first losing season since joining the Falcons in 2008. They have also opted to keep both co-ordinators which gives the Falcons stability on they’re coaching staff. It was rumoured that defensive co-ordinator Mike Nolan would not return but despite the Falcons ranking 27th in total defense it seems that that GM Thomas Dimitroff does not believe that this drop of is down to coaching. The Falcons did have a large number of injuries on the defense in 2013 and were forced to start several rookies that limited what schemes Nolan could run.

The weakest part of this Atlanta team over the last few years has been on both the offensive and defensive lines and it comes as no surprise that both line coaches, Pat Hill and Paul Dunn (offense) and Ray Hamilton (defense) have all been fired.

In terms of playing personnel the Falcons have a quarterback in Matt Ryan who despite playing behind the worst offensive line in football in 2013 ranked 4th in passing yards, throw in the fact that Ryan was without his top two receivers  for the majority of the season. The Falcons also have a running back with a proven track record although Steven Jackson did not have a 1000 yard season for the first time in 9 years due to injury, but probably wouldn’t have got there anyway due to the poor blocking in front of him.

In Julio Jones and Roddy White the Falcons have arguably the best receiver tandem in the league, both had injuries in 2013 but White was able to return and finished the season strongly. Third receiver Harry Douglas stepped up in their absence and should be involved a lot more in this offense, especially as tight end Tony Gonzalez has now retired.

On defense Atlanta appears to have stuck gold with rookie corner Desmond Trufant and fellow Robert Alford was also a plus and should be the starter going into 2014. The injuries on defense gave opportunites for fellow rookies, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu at linebackler who both performed well in the most and I expect Worrilow to be a starter in 2014 and Bartu will be a capable back up. Defensive End Jonathan Massaquoi showed improvement in 2014 although will need to improve on the 4 sacks total from the 16 games he started.

Atlanta had solid if not spectacular special teams play in 2013 and both kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher are reliable.

What the Falcons Need.

Now I will get into specifics of who the Falcons could and should go after in part 3, here I am just highlighting the main needs position and area wise. The Falcons are pegged to have around $17 Million in cap space before any cuts are made.

As has been said many times before, Atlanta needs a significant upgrade  on its offensive line. Why pay your quarterback $100+ and not bother to protect him or be able to create any sort of a running game? I expect the Falcons to add 2 or 3 players here with one being a big name free agent. The Falcons could opt to move Sam Baker inside and sign a left tackle but also need help at the guard position.  The Defensive line also needs help in the pass rushing department and adding one proven pass rusher still in their prime or perhaps drafting Javedon Clowney (or both) is a must.

With Tony Gonzalez retiring the Birds could opt to give 2nd year man Levine Toilolo the job at tight end or could target a free agent, but this could all depend on available cap space as the Falcons need to address the problems they have on both lines before they use cap space on an expensive tight end. The Falcons may look to add a free Safety after Thomas Decoud’s poor year and with the defense already on the young side this may come through a more experienced  free agent.

What else the Falcons will need depends on who they cut or lose in free agency but they will likely need to at least add a corner/ nickelback and a defensive lineman.

 

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About the Author

I am a huge NFL and Atlanta Falcons fan from the UK. The majoirty of my articles are related to the NFL but occasionally I'll write about Film or TV. I have a diploma in Freelance Journalism. Follow me on twitter @davefalcon90