Falcons look to Rise Up in 2014

Jimmy Cribb/Atlantafalcons.com

The 2013 season was not a season the Falcons would like to remember, but one could argue it was season that they needed in terms of learning from one another.

With injuries to Mike Johnson, Julio Jones, Kroy Biermann, Roddy White, Sean Weatherspoon, Steven Jackson, Corey Peters and Sam Baker, the Falcons had to play more young players than they wanted to, which led to the team struggling to score points as well as getting off the field on third down.

Now that is 2014, the Falcons are entering the season (relatively) healthy and with the additions they made through free agency and the draft, they are confident they can bounce back and be a playoff and Super Bowl contender. However, the play in the division that features an improving Tampa Bay team, the defending division champion Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints who are the favorite to win the NFC South and the Falcons first opponent for the 2014 season which begins on Sunday. So to say the Falcons have their work cut out for them to get back on top is an understatement.


Looking at Matt Ryan’s numbers from last season, one would think he had a Pro Bowl Year and the Falcons won at least 10 games. That was not the case because he there was a key number to his stat line that makes fans cringe and that’s 44.

That number is important because 44 is the number of times Ryan was sacked last season. So, in response to the offensive line issues the Falcons had to go through, head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted Jake Matthews to play left tackle and signed Jon Asamoah from the Chiefs to play right guard. Sam Baker was slated to play left tackle and Matthews was going to play right. But Baker suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason, which led to Matthews moving to left and Lamar Holmes, who played in 16 games last season at right and left tackle, will play right to start the season.

One of the other things that did not help Ryan was not having a consistent run game and his starting receivers were rarely in the lineup because of injuries. Jackson is coming off a hamstring injury and he’s looking to bounce back from his worst season in the NFL. White and Jones looked strong during the preseason the combination of those two along with Harry Douglas and Devin Hester make up potentially the most dangerous foursome of receivers in the NFL. Levine Toilolo will start at tight end and he will be used a lot in running and short-down situations.



Another issue with the Falcons last year is that they had trouble stopping the run (135.8 ypg) and they could not get after the quarterback (32 sacks). That is the reason the Falcons brought in Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson to man the middle of the defensive line and moved Jonathan Babineaux from defensive tackle to defensive end. Kroy Biermann missed most of last season with an injured foot, but looks healthy and ready to make plays off the edge.

The loss of Sean Weatherspoon hurts because the linebacker spot is not very deep. But Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are high-motor guys that rarely miss tackles. Also, watch for rookie Prince Shembo who had a strong training camp preseason.

With they away the rest of the teams in the NFC South throw the ball, expect the Falcons to use three cornerbacks. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are becoming the best young cornerback tandem in the game and Josh Wilson adds depth and experience to the nickelback position. Safety William Moore is coming off a solid 2013 season where he had 86 tackles and three interceptions. Dwight Lowery takes the place of Thomas DeCoud and he is more reliable when it comes to making plays in the run game.

The Falcons have the talent to be a playoff contender and if things go their way, they could win the NFC South. But the key for them is to keep Matt Ryan upright, stay relatively healthy and improve on defense. If they can do those three things, they could be back to where they were in 2012, and that’s hosting playoff games at the Georgia Dome.


Projected Record: 10-6

Offensive MVP: QB Matt Ryan

Defensive MVP: DE Jonathan Babineaux

Rookie of the Year: LT Jake Matthews

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