2015 NFL Season Preview- Atlanta Falcons
The team improved from their 2013 season, but it still wasn't enough to get Atlanta back to playoff form.
For the second straight season, quarterback Matt Ryan played behind a dismal and injured offensive line. He threw for over 4,600 yards and 28 touchdowns but also threw 14 interceptions, four of which were returned for touchdowns. Wide receiver Julio Jones bounced back from a career threatening foot injury and finished the year with 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. Kick returner Devin Hester returned to pro bowl form as he led the league in kick return yardage and became the all time leader in return touchdowns.
The defense was an embarrassment and cost the team a winning record. The defensive line couldn't generate a pass rush nor stop the run. The defense only managed 22 sacks which was the second worst in the league. The secondary was solid, but the team's lack of pass rush put a lot of pressure on the cornerbacks.
The rookie class was played well given the circumstances. Tackle Jake Matthews played well against elite pass rushers despite dealing with an ankle injury for much of the year. Running back Devonta Freeman played well as a back up and displayed big playmaking ability.
Falcons 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 5th
NFL Rank- 24th
NFL Rank- Last
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 8th
NFL Rank- Last
After two straight losing seasons and failing to win the division in the season finale against Carolina, head coach Mike Smith was fired. The team replaced Smith with former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
When offensive coordinator Dirk Koester left for Tampa Bay, he was replaced by former Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. After the defense finished last against the pass and total defense, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was fired and replaced by former Denver Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith.
Notable Additions- WR Leonard Hankerson, TE Jacob Tamme, TE Tony Moeaki, LB Brooks Reed, LB Justin Durant
Notable Departures- RB Steven Jackson, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Harry Douglas, OT Sam Baker, LB Sean Weatherspoon, CB Josh Wilson, S Dwight Lowery
Falcons 2014 Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
Atlanta held the eighth overall pick in the draft and had many voids to fill. Primarily at running back and linebacker.
Steven Jackson was past his prime last season and Devonta Freeman isn't an every down back. The offense is much more effective when it is balanced.
The outside linebackers couldn't apply any pressure from their 3-4 defense and only managed 22 sacks. Atlanta needs a pass rusher who can consistently get to the quarterback.
The defense gave up nearly 120 yards rushing per game. The Falcons need an enforcer in the middle who can set the tempo.
Atlanta chose to select Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley with the eighth overall pick. Beasley was viewed as the most expensive outside linebacker in the draft but has struggled in the past at playing against the run.
The Falcons also notably selected LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round and Indiana running back Tevin Coleman in the third. Collins was praised for his combination of size and speed but struggles in his technique when back peddling. Coleman was viewed as the best outside running back in the draft but he lacks the ideal body type for the NFL game.
Vic Beasley Highlights
What to Expect
This is one of the bigger enigmas of the season.
We know what Matt Ryan and the passing game will bring to the table. The problem I have its the team doesn't have a starting running back. Atlanta will have to go with a running back by comity going into training camp and see which one steps up during the preseason games. The offensive line lost some key pieces in Sam Baker and Justin Blalock so it will be hard to see how this line could be any better.
Defensively the pass rush should be much better, teaming up Vic Beasley with Kroy Biermann will give the team enough talent on the edge to pit pressure on quarterbacks. Adding Jalen Collins to the secondary gives the team a shutdown cornerback to play opposite rising star Desmond Trufant. With the defense going back to a 4-3 front, the defensive line now looks the part and should be more comfortable in the system.
As there are still concerns with the run game, offensive line, and pass rush, its hard to picture Atlanta as a playoff team just yet
Best record they can hope for: 9-7