The 3 Most Positive Developments of the Atlanta Falcons Offseason
But those closely following the team know it has been anything but thus far.
From the addition of Dirk Koetter in early January to the recent signing of free agent Chris Hope in late June, a multitude of developments have impacted the Dirty Birds this offseason.
Here's a look at the three most positive of those developments for the Falcons.
Improving the Defense
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One of Atlanta's top priorities this season was improving the defense, and they wasted no time in doing so with the hiring of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in January.
Nolan will be expected to turn the vanilla schemes and bend-but-don't-break style employed by ex-coordinator Brian VanGorder into an aggressive, ball-hawking defense.
But that kind of defense takes playmakers, and that's exactly what the Falcons got when they traded for cornerback Asante Samuel on the eve of this year's draft.
A Pro Bowl cornerback who leads the NFL with 38 interceptions since 2006, Samuel instantly upgrades one of the Falcons' weaker areas in the secondary.
But a big part of a good secondary is an even better pass rush, and a big way Atlanta ensured that was with the re-signing of defensive end John Abraham in March.
Abraham, who led the team in sacks last season with 9.5, quickly instilled himself as the Falcons' premier pass-rusher since landing in Atlanta in 2006.
These additions, coupled with the talent of young up-and-comers like linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, should see the Falcons finally field a defense to be feared in 2012.
Solidifying the Offensive Line
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"Regression" is perhaps the best word to describe the 2011 season for the Falcons offensive line.
Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 26 times, and the team finished second-to-last in 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 conversions. Poor protection proved to be a leading reason for the Falcons' offensive shutout in an embarrassing 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants.
Undoubtedly, improvement was desperately needed this offseason.
The Falcons began by firing offensive line coach Paul Boudreau and replacing him with former Rutgers head coach Pat Hill before signing former Jacksonville Jaguars guard Vince Manuwai in free agency and bringing back longtime starting center Todd McClure.
But they didn't stop there.
The trenches became a focal point of Atlanta's draft as well, with the Falcons selecting guard/center Peter Konz and offensive tackle Lamar Holmes with their first two picks this year.
With these moves, the Falcons have high hopes they can go back to having words like "mean," "tough" and "nasty" describing their offensive line.
Diversifying the Offense
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Under former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the Atlanta Falcons lived and died by the running game.
For proof, look no further than last year, when the Falcons were 10-1 in games Michael Turner had 17 carries or more and 0-5 in games he failed to reach that mark.
But with Dirk Koetter now in town, that may soon change.
Koetter will look to add diversity to the Falcons attack, and the biggest way that will happen is by moving the screen pass from the back burner to a priority this year.
With the screen pass, not only will Matt Ryan face less pressure thanks to reduced blitzing, but it will give receiver Julio Jones, with his 17.8 receiving average, the opportunity to do what he does best: run after the catch.
But Jones won't be the only one getting in on the action, as running back Jacquizz Rodgers and receiver Harry Douglas figure to get more involved in Koetter's offense as well.
And all of that just might be enough to send the Falcons offense over the top in 2012.