NFL Preview: Atlanta Falcons

Home: The Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia

Owner: Arthur Blank
Head Coach: Mike Smith
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Mularkey
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder
Special Teams Coach: Keith Armstrong

Schedule:

Sunday, September 12: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, September 19: Vs. Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, September 26: @ New Orleans Saints
Sunday, October 3: Vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, October 10: @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, October 17: @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, October 24: Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
BYE WEEK
Sunday, November 7: Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Thursday, November 11: Vs. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, November 21: @ St. Louis Rams
Sunday, November 28: Vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, December 5: @ Tampa bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 12: @ Carolina Panthers
Sunday, December 19: @ Seattle Seahawks
Thursday, December 23: Vs. New Orleans Saints
Sunday, January 2: Vs. Carolina Panthers

Projected Offensive Starters

Left Tackle: Sam Baker
Left Guard: Justin Blalock
Center: Todd McClure
Right Guard: Harvey Dahl
Right Tackle: Tyson Clabo
Wide Receiver 1: Michael Jenkins
Wide Receiver 2: Roddy White
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez
Fullback: Ovie Mughelli
Running Back: Michael Turner
Quarterback: Matt Ryan

Projected Defensive Starters (Base 4-3 Defense)

Left Defensive End: Jamaal Anderson
Left Defensive Tackle: Peria Jerry
Right Defensive Tackle: Corey Peters
Right Defensive End: John Abraham
Weakside Linebacker: Mike Peterson
Middle Linebacker: Curtis Lofton
Strongside Linebacker: Stephen Nicholas
Left Cornerback: Dunta Robinson
Strong Safety: Erik Coleman
Free Safety: Thomas DeCoud
Right Cornerback: Brent Grimes

Projected Special Teams Starters
Kicker (FG and KO): Matt Bryant
Punter: Michael Koenen
Long Snapper: Joe Zelenka
Holder: Michael Koenen
Kickoff Returner: Eric Weems
Punt Returner: Eric Weems

Key Offseason Pick-Ups

It appears as if the NFC South is the division that decided not to do much by way of free agent signings and trades. Atlanta may have had only one big pick-up, but at least they made it a good one. Signing away cornerback Dunta Robinson from Houston will certainly bolster their secondary and make it a force to be watched out for. Brent Grimes will be a great compliment to Robinson and make for a formidable cornerback tandem.

Key Offseason Losses

Cornerback Tye Hill is the biggest loss by far even though Robinson supplements him. I would have personally gotten rid of Grimes to pair Hill with Robinson, but to each their own. Quarterback DJ Shockley has been a staple on the bench of the Falcons for years now, but never produced in the NFL. Having Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson behind Ryan though means Shockley became completely expendable.

Rookie Watch

There is not much to watch here because the Falcons had an incredibly sub-par draft that virtually only resulted in one good pick. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is one that is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. The kid has the speed and power to find the ball no matter where it is on the field. He won’t end up starting right away, but my gut tells me that he’ll be in a starting position before the season is over.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters could end up making some noise, but it may take him a little while to break into the main rotation.

Season Expectations

The offense is going to be carrying the Falcons this season and in this division that’s not really a bad thing. Matt Ryan has another year of experience and familiarity with the offense and can only get better. The running game will continue to keep pressure of Ryan, Turner is one of the best backs in the league when he’s healthy and the they Falcons have depth at the position in case he gets dinged up again this year. Roddy White still leads the WRs and is one of the more underrated WRs in the league. Michael Jenkins is a competent number 2 and Tony Gonzales still can get it done from the TE position.

To keep the offense from needing to win a shootout every week the defense will have to step up from last season. Curtis Lofton is one of the best young MLB in football and is in line for breakout season this year. Yes, a breakout bigger than his 100+ tackles last season. The defensive line has a lot of early draft picks on it, but that hasn’t led to much production out of the group. They need to find a way to get pressure on the QB because the defensive backfield won’t hold up against passers with time. Dunta Robinson is a nice player but has never lived up to the expectations he had out of college and he’s the “star” of the DBs.

Record Prediction: 11-5

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