Predicting Team Awards for the Atlanta Falcons' 2013 Season

Al Bruce@@AlBruce7Contributor IAugust 21, 2013

Predicting Team Awards for the Atlanta Falcons' 2013 Season

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    Like most NFL teams in late August, the 2013 Atlanta Falcons are saying and doing everything to suggest that they are focused on team goals such as winning the NFC South and eventually winning the Super Bowl.

    However, as we continue our preseason Falcons coverage, we'll shift our focus away from the team and towards the individual.

    This year's Falcons squad certainly isn't lacking for star power given the presence of names like Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Jonathan Babineaux and Osi Umenyiora.  In addition, Atlanta has a formidable supporting cast of players on the cusp of stardom, including Sean Weatherspoon, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.

    With such a talent-laden roster, competition for individual recognition from this group won't come easy. 

    Nevertheless, here's our best projection of which Falcons players will be in line for individual awards from the team when the 2013 campaign is all said and done based on what we've seen and heard from Flowery Branch during training camp to this point.

Most Valuable Player

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    Winner: Matt Ryan, QB

    Why He's the Pick

    Not a big surprise here.  I've shared my belief that Julio Jones is the most talented player on Atlanta's roster, but there's little doubt that Matt Ryan is its most valuable player.  It's simple.  He's the one player Atlanta cannot afford to lose, and you don't need $105 million bucks to figure out why.

    After a setting new career highs in yardage, touchdowns and quarterback rating in 2012, Ryan should only improve in his second season in offense coordinator Dirk Koetter's scheme as he distributes the ball to what's probably the best collection of skill position players in the league.

    Indeed, if the right side of Atlanta's offensive line holds up in pass protection, Ryan may end up being more than just Atlanta's MVP so long as he cuts his interceptions down.

Rookie of the Year

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    Winners: Desmond Trufant, CB and Robert Alford, CB (Tie)

    Why They're the Picks

    The Falcons have been a needs-based team in the draft under general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith, and an obvious need at cornerback led Dimitroff to double down at corner with Atlanta's first two picks in April's draft.

    This season the Falcons will play games against Drew Brees (twice), Cam Newton (twice), Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III.  Both Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford will get plenty of opportunities to make plays against some of the league's most sophisticated passing attacks.

    It's too early to tell whether Trufant or Alford will have the better year, but they are certainly the two rookies who have the best chance to make a major impact on this year's Atlanta team.

Most Improved Player

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    Winner: Peter Konz, C

    Why He's the Pick

    Peter Konz fought hard at right guard last year, but he often struggled against stronger defenders.  This season Konz moves to center to replace Falcons legend Todd McClure.

    Konz was a center at Wisconsin, and it's his natural position.  Although he'll be tested in games versus 3-4 teams like New Orleans and Green Bay, playing center should help Konz avoid some of the one-on-one blocking assignments with stronger defenders that he struggled with last year.

Biggest Surprise

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    Winner: Jonathan Massaquoi, DE

    Why He's the Pick

    It's no secret that Atlanta needs another pass-rusher to emerge to help Osi Umenyiora get after opposing quarterbacks.  The main candidates seem to be Kroy Biermann, Cliff Matthews, Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga and Massaquoi.

    Massaquoi may not be a household name yet, but he's more than capable of contributing four or five sacks this year. Massaquoi showed some explosion off of the line against Cincinnati and his athleticism should get him the first shot to get on the field Week 1.

Biggest Disappointment

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    Winner: Levine Toilolo, TE

    Why He's the Pick

    Fans expecting Toilolo to play a major role as Atlanta's No. 2 tight end this year may be upset.  Chase Coffman has had a productive offseason and he's currently listed ahead of Toilolo in the team's latest depth chart

    This shouldn't be construed as too much of a knock against Toilolo, as he's likely on the same "redshirt" path that Jonathan Massaquoi was on last year.

    As long as he's minimally competent as a blocker, Chase Coffman will probably get most work as the team's second receiving option at tight end.

Offensive Player of the Year

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    Winner: Julio Jones, WR

    Why He's the Pick

    Julio Jones is clearly the team's best big-play threat on a loaded offense.  In fact, this may be the year that Jones overtakes Roddy White as the team's top receiving option.

    Offseason conditioning and improved route running will only make Jones more dangerous.  Look out NFL.

Defensive Player of the Year

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    Winner: Osi Umenyiora, DE

    Why He's the Pick

    Umenyiora is eager to prove that he can produce away from star-studded New York Giants defensive line.  Umenyiora has already displayed ability to get to QB in camp and in preseason games.

    Moreover, Umenyiora's athleticism should make a difference against the read-option, and he figures to put up double-digit sack numbers on this defense.

    Look for a big year out of the former Giant in his first year in red and black.