Falcons head into OTA’s with new faces, questions to be answered


Construction to the Dome’s surrounding parking lots is not the only change Falcons fans can expect to see when heading to games this season. There is a noticeable difference in attitude and personnel with this 2014 team. The past couple seasons Atlanta has been motivated during OTA’s to bounce back from its tough playoff losses. But this offseason it is not just a desire to make the playoffs and string together a run to the Super Bowl that is driving the team. It is a focus to become a tougher team each day. Rookies no longer are joining a veteran roster and waiting their turn. Young players are competing for spots, filling rolls and bringing the physical assets missing from offseasons in the past years.


The Falcons began their organized team activities (OTA’s) Tuesday after a week off following rookie minicamp. Not often does anyone credit the glorified walk-thru known as rookie minicamp for setting the tone for a season, but this class of rookies did their best this past week. Falcons owner Arthur Blank openly admitted after last year’s 4-12 finish that the team was not tough enough and Day 1 of the minicamp saw first-round draft pick Jake Matthews and second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman going at it during one-on-one combat drills. The competition became so intense that coach Smith had to remind the team that it was Day 1 and it was a walkthrough.

“Everyone was getting after it today,” said Matthews after the first day of minicamp. “Coach Smith had to tell us that this is a walkthrough because guys were going full speed and we were busting lips and hitting guys and I busted my nose up… We were getting after it and that’s the big thing I’ve taken away from this group is that these guys love to work.”

Smith has always stressed that the priority in the offseason is staying healthy. This year’s goal is the same but team does not have the same experience and 17-year pros like Tony Gonzalez last season and acclimating the young guys to the NFL speed has increased the tempo.


Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed OTA’s last season with an arthroscopic knee surgery and recently released linebacker Stephen Nicholas was out as well. Their absence allowed undrafted free-agent rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu to see a lot of reps and it ended up preparing them for the season when Spoon and Nicholas were hurt again and they were inserted into the starting lineup. Wide receiver Julio Jones and Weatherspoon will be limited for most of the offseason and are not expected to get back into full participation until right before the season.

“Jones and Weatherspoon won’t be “doing a whole lot” in the offseason conditioning program or the full-team minicamp scheduled to begin later this month,” confirmed Smith “Our focus is strictly on getting them ready to go for training camp.” Weatherspoon’s absence gives Atlanta’s three linebacker 2014 draft picks a chance at some extra reps and also gives Worrilow and Bartu bigger roles until Weatherspoon’s return.

Worrilow finished tied for 12th in the NFL last season with 127 total tackles. Worrilow led all rookies in the category and finished one of the Leagues top tacklers despite not seeing action until injuries thrust him into the lineup mid-season. Worrilow had just one tackle the first four games of 2013 before stepping into the starting role. Had Worrilow started the whole season he would have been on pace for 169 tackles, just two off the NFL’s leader Vontaze Burfict’s 171.

Worrilow led the team in tackles with his 127 takedowns ahead of Bartu, who had 86 total tackles. Rookie and starting cornerback Desmond Trufant finished fourth behind William Moore’s 86 tackles with 70. Three of the four top tacklers on Atlanta’s defense last season were rookies and that experience has helped the defensive chemistry in OTA’s.


Atlanta was somewhat of a traveling history show last season with Gonzalez as the Hall of Famer tight end broke his own records with every reception he made. This season, starting receiver Roddy White approaches a key milestone that would solidify his place as the best receiver in franchise history. White is healthy this offseason and is seeing a ton of action as the offense prepares to open the sea-son for its first game without Gonzalez in the lineup in 2,079 days (Dec. 28, 2008). White is the Falcons’ all-time receiving leader with 9,436 yards (2,087 ahead of second-place Terance Mathis) and the career receptions leader (685) ahead of Mathis by a staggering 112 receptions. However, White sits third all-time in touchdown receptions with 55 behind Andre Rison’s 56 and Mathis’ 57.

White has hauled in at least three touch-down receptions in each of the past seven sea-sons. The 10-year pro suffered through a string of injuries last year, but managed to haul in 20 receptions for 232 yards and a pair of touch-downs in Atlanta’s final two games once he was healthy.


Offensively, Matt Ryan will once again be the centerpiece of the offense and he will have plenty of weapons to distribute the football to. The receiving trio of Gonzalez, Jones and White was considered the best in the league in past years and there will still be a danger- ous trio this year thanks to slot specialist Harry Douglas. Douglas filled in last season after Jones suffered his season-ending foot injury and finished the season with 85 catches for 1,067 yards. Douglas’ previous career highs for a season were 39 catches and 498 yards. Ryan will have an improved offensive line with Matthews anchoring the right side and the elusive Devin Hester to mix into the playbook. Hester is not only the game’s top return man, but like Gonzalez, he can get open and sit in the hole to give Ryan a reliable check down option during his progressions. Gonzalez drew double-teams on nearly every play and that attention will be nearly impossible to match, but a home-run threat like Hester coming out of the backfield or from the slot will certainly keep defenses honest.


The Falcons have a difficult schedule. Last year, Atlanta took on the AFC East in its non-conference matchup and went 1-3, beating Buffalo and losing to the Patriots, Dolphins and Jets. This year, Atlanta faces the physical AFC North with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland. The Falcons led the NFL in one-possession losses last season with seven and no stone is being left unturned this offseason to regain their edge.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Falcons head into OTA’s with new faces, questions to be answered”

  1. get blackhat
    November 16, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Absolutely composed content material, Really enjoyed looking at.
    get blackhat http://getblackhatteam.com/get-build-rank-and-flip-amazon-review-sites-download/

Leave a Reply