State of the Offense:
The Falcons appointed a new offensive coordinator this year, Dirk Koetter, who is expected to complete the team’s transition into a pass first offense. Michael Turner no longer has any notable burst to take over games against better teams, he did still put up huge numbers against weaker run defenses last year. Instead youngster Jacquizz Rodgers should be more involved as a receiving running back behind Matt Ryan. Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White make up one of the most feared trios of players in the whole NFL. Alas, the Falcons have some serious offensive line issues that Ryan will need to overcome with his quick release and intelligence.
State of the Defense:
John Abraham returns for another season after not receiving a massive offer in free agency. The Falcons will be expecting another big season from Abraham and hoping for Ray Edwards to emerge after a full off-season. The Falcons need Akeem Dent or Mike Peterson to step up and fill the void left by Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker, but they have improved the secondary by adding cornerback Asante Samuel. With Samuel, Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, the Falcons have three starting caliber corners. A rarity in today’s NFL.
When the Falcons drafted Julio Jones, they had aspirations of watching him and Roddy White dominate defenses together. White is an overwhelming possession receiver who had a down year last year. He should rebound this season while Jones has looked phenomenal in preseason. With Jones’ explosion down the field and White’s work underneath, the Falcons arguably have the best tandem of starting receivers in the NFL.
As good as Julio Jones has looked in the preseason, the Falcons’ offensive line has looked awful. That isn’t really a surprise because they didn’t play well together last year and haven’t altered the personnel significantly. The Falcons overcame their offensive line last year to make the playoffs, but the Giants exposed it in the playoffs. If the Falcons have Super Bowl aspirations, they will have to get better production from the group.
The Falcons expect poor pass protection, they will prepare for it. What they aren’t sure about is the production they can get from Tony Gonzalez. The sure-fire hall of fame tight end had just under 900 yards and seven touchdowns last year. If he has one more big season in him at 36 years of age, the Falcons’ offense could be one of the most difficult to defend in the NFL.
Cian Fahey writes for Irishcentral and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf