2014 NFL Season Preview- Atlanta Falcons
After finishing one game short of the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons were poised to make it back to the NFC championship in 2013. So much so, that Tony González came out of retirement to try to win a Super Bowl. The team signed former St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson in hopes of improving their running game. How wrong they were.
The Falcons had their first losing seasons in six years under head coach Mike Smith. The team relied too much on quarterback Matt Ryan as the team threw the ball nearly 70% of them. Steven Jackson failed to bring the same production as former running back Michael Turner. Jackson never grasped the offense, missed four games due to injury, and rushed for under four yards per carry. Wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White were compromised by injuries and the 2nd- string receivers weren't the caliber of the starters.
The defense was inconsistent and degraded from last season. There was no pass rush or run stopping from the defensive line and the secondary was left covering longer than they should have.
Afterwards, Tony González retired for good and the team was left a huge void by one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history.
Falcons 2013 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
265.2 yards per game
77.9 yards per game
243.6 yards per game
135.8 yards per game
343.1 yards per game
379.4 yards per game
NFL Rank- 7th
NFL Rank- Last
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 31st
NFL Rank- 14th
NFL Rank- 27th
Head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were determine to build a team to the caliber of the 2012 division champs. The team new that needed to improve their defense who finished in the bottom half of every defensive statistic. This forced the team to change its defensive strategy.
The team switches from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann will play outside linebacker to create various pass rushing scenarios in a hope of increasing sacks and decrease the amount of time the corners and safeties need to cover.
The team will also looks to improve a running game that finished dead last in the NFL. The team hopes that Steven Jackson down year was a fluke and that the pro bowl runner can return to form.
Notable additions- KR Devin Hester, G Gabel Carimi, FS Dwight Lowery
Notable departures- TE Tony González, RB Jason Snelling, CB Asante Samuel, FS Thomas DeCoud
Atlanta Falcons Highlights
2014 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, the Falcons held the sixth overall pick and had many holes that needed filled. Primarily on the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary.
Many agreed that the team needed to go offensive tackle due to the teams inability to protect Matt Ryan or open up running lanes for Steven Jackson. The top two tackles in the draft were Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews. Greg Robinson was seen as the nest run blocking tackle in the draft while Matthews was seen as the most NFL ready due to being a member of one the most notable football families.
With the team. Switching to a 3-4 defense, they need to rebuild the line in order to fit that scheme. Possible picks would be Notre Dame's Louis Nix or Pitt's Aaron Donald. With the release of Asante Samuel and Thomas DeCoud, the team's secondary was left in shambles. The team could have gone with Michigan State's Darqueze Denard or Louisville's Calvin Pryor.
The team decided to choose Jake Matthews with the sixth overall pick. Matthews has experience playing both tackle positions and excelled in both run and pass blocking while protecting Heisman trophy winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Jake Matthews Highlights
What to Expect
Falcons fans can expect to see their offense back in full force with the return of healthy receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. With the addition of Jake Matthews and Gabel Carimi, the team will look to improve its pass protection and run blocking.
The defense will still struggle for awhile until they get situated in the new 3-4 defense. With no notable additions added to the defense, its hard to see how they can improve with the players they have now.
With a struggling defense, the offense will be asked to do more. But at least the offense won't be diminished enough to the point that they can't do anything about it. With all of his weapons back in full swing, Matty Ice will be back in full form and lead comebacks without blinking an eye.
Best record they can hope for- 9-7