5 Atlanta Falcons Most Likely to Have a Breakout 2012 Season
Each NFL team has a player who comes from nowhere and makes a statement in the NFL. He did not have stardom before. He is the breakout player.
Last year Julio Jones had a breakout season with nearly 1,000 receiving yards.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers
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Starting running back Michael Turner has taken a lot of hits in his four years as a Falcon. That's taken a pounding on the big back.
The Falcons need to lighten his load. Jason Snelling, just re-signed in the offseason, is the same type of runner Turner is.
Second-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers provides the change-of-pace to offset Turner and Snelling's power.
Rodgers needs to improve on his pass-blocking skills, and if he does that, he'd start regularly playing on third downs.
Rodgers is the most likely Falcon to break out in 2012 based on the fact that Atlanta needs a back with electrifying speed.
LB Lofa Tatupu
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With Atlanta Falcons' leading tackler Curtis Lofton departing to the division-rival New Orleans Saints, someone is going to have to step up in 2012.
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu is the early favorite to land the starting middle linebacker spot. Tatupu didn't play all season in 2011, citing numerous knee injuries.
Tatupu was a three-time Pro Bowler, but the injuries have led to the quick down-turn of Tatupu's career. If Tatupu can remain healthy, he could have a breakout year.
WR Harry Douglas
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The Falcons changed offensive coordinators in the season, and in the process, helped wide receiver Harry Douglas.
Douglas' game is best suited to play in the slot. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will make sure Douglas gets the ball and deep.
He could have a monster season on offense with most of the attention, and deservedly so, trying to stop Roddy White and Julio Jones,
In addition, Douglas has a decent chance to win either the kick returning job or the punt returning job with the departure of Pro Bowler returner Eric Weems.
Douglas did return punts in 2008—19 of them for 226 yards—and even scored a touchdown.
CB Dominique Franks
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If Harry Douglas does not win both returning jobs, cornerback Dominique Franks is likely to be win one of them.
With the addition of cornerback Asante Samuel, Franks is not going to be a starter next year, even when the Falcons play the nickle defense consisting of five defensive backs.
Franks returned 29 punts in college for 346 yards but did not score. Franks is much less experienced at returning kickoffs, only returning eight in college.
The position battles between Franks and Douglas will be interesting to watch unfold, and the victor will likely have a breakout season.
LB Akeem Dent
If Tatupu cannot remain healthy in the 2012 season, linebacker Akeem Dent will play lots of minutes during the 2012 season.
The local product from the University of Georgia will see his playing time increase anyway, and could burst out into the NFL scene in 2012.
At 6'1" and 243 pounds, Dent has ideal size and speed to play linebacker at the NFL level. Look for Dent to make a dent on defense next season.