5 Things Falcons Must Address to Be Super-Bowl Bound in 2014

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIJanuary 22, 2013

5 Things Falcons Must Address to Be Super-Bowl Bound in 2014

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    The Atlanta Falcons have obvious needs that must be addressed this offseason if they are going to be Super Bowl-bound in 2014.

    Whether it's through free agency or the draft, the Falcons have some work to do to make it to the next level.

    Here's a look at five things the Falcons must address if they are going to make it to the Super Bowl in 2014.

Defensive End

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    The lack of pressure on the quarterback was obvious in the playoffs as the Falcons only got three quarterback sacks. All three of those came from the defensive tackle position.

    That has to change.

    The Ray Edwards experiment failed as he was released in the middle of the season. And John Abraham, with his injured ankle and age, struggled late in the year.

    Atlanta must address its pass-rush situation. And, they can do that both in the draft and via free agency.

    In free agency, the Falcons could go after Cliff Avril or Osi Umenyiora.

    Avril had 9.5 sacks last year with the Detroit Lions and doesn't look like he will re-sign. Umenyiora is still a great pass-rusher, but Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck currently take up spots in the starting lineup.

    In the draft, the Falcons could see Dion Jordan (Oregon), Sam Montgomery (LSU) or Ezekial Ansah (BYU) fall down to them at No. 30.

    However, if none of those three are available, the Falcons could wait until later rounds to build depth at the position. Alex Okafor (Texas) would be a good value pick in the second round, as would Datone Jones (UCLA).

Tight End

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    Tony Gonzalez has said he's still about 95 percent sure he's retiring.

    For Atlanta fans, that's disheartening because he can still get the job done with the best of them.

    If Gonzalez does retire, the Falcons will have to move forward with the tight-end position since it's a huge part of their system.

    And, nothing against Michael Palmer, but he doesn't have the abilities to be an every-down tight end in the NFL.

    However, Jared Cook is one player the Falcons could look at in free agency.

    As a member of the Tennessee Titans, Cook doesn't get the opportunities to be a pass-catching tight end like he wants to be.

    Atlanta would give him that opportunity. Plus, he's from the Atlanta area, so that's something else the Falcons would have going for them.

    If the Falcons decide to draft a tight end, there are two good ones that could be available at the end of the first round.

    Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz can both play the tight-end position at a high level.

    Both are projected to go at the end of the first round and would be a perfect fit for the Falcons.

Running Back

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    Michael Turner's run in Atlanta was great, but 2012 showed us that it's just not working out anymore.

    Turner struggled all season, and it's obvious the Falcons need to make a change.

    Jacquizz Rodgers is a good change-of-pace back, but is not a starter in the NFL. The Falcons need to go after a bruiser who can do dirty work in the middle.

    In free agency, Rashard Mendenhall could be a perfect fit in Atlanta. He loves contact and is only 25.

    He does come with a few issues, but those can be fixed in Atlanta.

    In the draft, the Falcons won't draft a running back with their first- or second-round pick. However, after that there are no guarantees.

    There will be a lot of talented backs available in the third round. Guys like Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), Stepfan Taylor (Stanford) and Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State) could all do work in between the tackles.

    Lattimore is the biggest wild card due to his history of injuries.

    However, if those injuries are past him, then he could be the biggest steal of the entire draft.

Strong-Side and Middle Linebacker

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    Outside of Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons have issues at the linebacker position.

    Stephen Nicholas and Akeem Dent aren't starters in the NFL and the Falcons need to address both positions.

    In free agency, the only player that is worth much is Anthony Spencer, but he'll likely have multiple suitors in free agency.

    Connor Barwin is another player whose name will get thrown around, but he struggles against the run.

    The draft has multiple players the Falcons could go after.

    If they decide to address linebacker with their first-round pick, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o or LSU's Kevin Minter could fill in at the inside position. On the outside, Georgia's Alec Ogletree could be there in the first round.

    However, it's more likely the Falcons will address the defensive line in the first round.

    Depending on when they choose to address linebacker, Florida's Jelani Jenkins and Alabama's Nico Johnson could be available.

Offensive Line

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    Todd McClure is getting old, and the Falcons failed to get any kind of running game going this year.

    However, there was a lot of great pass-blocking and very few mental mistakes.

    There are many ways the Falcons could go, but it's likely they will choose the draft to take care of this situation.

    Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina would be worthy of a first-round pick, but he likely won't fall down to No. 30. Alabama's Barrett Jones will likely be there, however, and would be a great addition the line as he could play any position along the line.

    One player to look for late in the draft is Georgia Tech's Omoregie Uzzi. He's still raw, but give him some time and he could develop into a good NFL starter.