As we continue our preseason look at the Atlanta Falcons, we'll cater to our fantasy football audience by taking a shot at projecting the final statistics for each of Atlanta's primary offensive skill-position players along with the key players at every level of the defense.
We based our projections on each player's performance last season, his projected role in this year's offense/defense, and any favorable or unfavorable matchups the player may have coming his way on Atlanta's 2013 regular-season schedule.
Let's start under center with Matt Ryan.
Note: All 2012 Stats are from ESPN.com
2012: 4,719 yards passing, 32 TDs, 14 INTs, 68% completion percentage
2013 projection: 4,915 yards passing, 35 TDs, 12 INTs, 68% completion percentage
Atlanta's starting group at wide receiver, tight end and running back is arguably the best in the league. Combine that with another full offseason in Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's system, and Matt Ryan should be able to eclipse the career highs he set in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage last year.
Ryan's passing yardage will go up to account for Steven Jackson's contribution as a receiver out of the backfield, and Ryan's interceptions will dip because he's unlikely to have another five-interception outing like the one he had against Arizona last year.
2012 (with St. Louis): 257 carries, 1,042 yards, 4 TDs; 38 receptions, 321 yards
2013 projection: 235 carries, 1,034 yards, 8 TDs; 50 receptions, 387 yards, 1 TD
2012: 94 carries, 362 yards, 1 TD; 53 receptions, 402 yards, 1 TD
2013 projection: 102 carries, 400 yards, 3 TDs; 48 receptions, 312 yards, 2 TDs
2012: 18 carries, 63 yards; 31 receptions, 203 yards, 1 TD
2013 projection: 13 carries, 46 yards; 30 receptions, 200 Yards, 1 TD
Bradie Ewing (Fullback)
2012: N/A, injured
2013 projection: 2 carries, 5 yards; 4 receptions, 6 yards, 1 TD
Jackson won't have to carry Atlanta's offense the way he carried the load for many years in St. Louis, and the Falcons are still going to be a pass-first team. Expect Jackson's carries to land somewhere between the 221 that Michael Turner had with the Falcons last year and the 257 that Jackson had with the Rams as he accounts for approximately two-thirds of Atlanta's rushing attempts.
Jacquizz Rodgers joins Jackson as a receiving threat out of the backfield on screen plays and checkdowns, and Rodgers should still get his opportunities as a ball-carrier as well. Jason Snelling and Bradie Ewing will put up respectable numbers as utility players even though Snelling will lose a couple of carries to Jackson and Rodgers.
2012: 79 receptions, 1,198 yards, 10 TDs
2013 projection: 91 receptions, 1,390 yards, 12 TDs
2012: 92 receptions, 1,351 yards, 7 TDs
2013 projection: 85 receptions, 1,275 yards, 8 TDs
2012: 38 receptions, 395 yards, 1 TD
2013 projection: 41 receptions, 400 yards, 2 TDs
2012: 4 receptions, 40 yards, 1 TD
2013 projection: 3 receptions, 10 yards
Julio Jones overtakes Roddy White as the team's top receiver as the presence of Steven Jackson in the backfield gives Jones a few more opportunities to get behind safeties for big plays. The Falcons figure to be in a few shootout-type games this season given the quarterbacks that they're scheduled to face, so Jones will be expected to make his share of big plays.
Roddy White remains steady and reliable, while Harry Douglas continues to fight for his touches in the slot.
2012: 93 receptions, 930 yards, 8 TDs
2013 projection: 85 receptions, 892 yards, 7 TDs
2012: 1 reception, 12 yards
2013 projection: 7 receptions, 30 yards, 1 TD
2013 projection: 2 receptions, 13 yards
Tony Gonzalez's receiving numbers will dip slightly, but it probably has less to do with Gonzalez and more to do with the other weapons that Atlanta has on offense. Nevertheless, Gonzalez should continue to be a difference-maker in the red zone and on third down.
Chase Coffman is expected to star as Gonzalez's understudy this season, and he should find his spots the way that Michael Palmer did the last couple of seasons.
Levine Toilolo doesn't appear to be ready to make a huge contribution to the offense this year.
2012: 31 tackles (8 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF
2013 projection: 33 tackles (8 for loss), 4 sacks, 1 FF
2012: 15 tackles, 1 FF (10 games)
2013 projection: 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF
2012: 14 tackles
2013 projection: 12 tackles
2012: 2 tackles
2013 projection: 7 tackles
Corey Peters can make a real difference in this group if he's able to bounce back from a subpar 2012 campaign that saw him miss over a quarter of the season with an injury. Jonathan Babineaux remains the anchor up front, while Travian Robertson and Peria Jerry try to match Vance Walker's production.
2012 with Giants: 43 tackles (3 for loss), 6 sacks, 2 FF
2013 projection: 38 tackles (4 for loss), 10 sacks, 2 FF
2012: 52 tackles, 4 sacks
2013 projection: 58 tackles, 5.5 sacks
2012: 2 tackles
2013 projection: 13 tackles, 3.5 sacks
2012: 6 tackles
2013 projection: 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks
2013 projection: 6 tackles, 0.5 sacks
2013 projection: 3 tackles
The Falcons are counting on a lot of young players at defensive end, so Osi Umenyiora will probably have to be "the guy" off of the edge until players like Massaquoi, Matthews, Maponga and Goodman demonstrate that they're ready to play.
Kroy Biermann figures to get his share of reps at both linebacker and defensive end, and Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's creativity should lead to more plays in their opponents' backfield for Biermann.
Jonathan Massaquoi appears to be primed to get the first crack at significant playing time from the young group.
2012: 95 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF (13 games)
2013 projection: 118 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INTs
2012: 97 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF
2013 projection: 90 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT
2012: 65 tackles
2013 projection: 78 tackles, 1.0 sacks
2013 projection: 8 tackles
2013 projection: 7 tackles
If Sean Weatherspoon stays healthy, he could be in line for a Pro Bowl berth following this season. He has been knocking on the door the last couple of years, and another year in Mike Nolan's scheme could push him through it.
Beyond Weatherspoon, look for Akeem Dent to play with more confidence after coming into his own during the second half of last season.
After Weatherspoon, Nicholas and Dent, there is little certainty in the Falcons' linebacking corps. We'll peg Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow as the backup linebackers and special teams aces for now.
UPDATE: Robert James was released as one of the team's final cuts to reach its initial 53-man roster.
2012: 36 tackles, 5 INTs, 1 TD, 19 passes defended
2013 projection: 29 tackles, 5 INTs, 14 passes defended
2013 projection: 65 tackles, 2 INTs, 11 passes defended
2013 projection: 60 tackles, 2 INTs, 10 passes defended
2012: 61 Tackles, 1 INT, 10 passes defended
2013 projection: 35 tackles, 1 INT, 7 passes defended
2012: 14 tackles, 2 passes defended
2013 projection: 10 tackles, 4 passes defended
Asante Samuel has never been an enthusiastic tackler, so it won't be too much of a shock if Samuel doesn't stick his nose into as many tackles in 2013. Samuel will continue to be a ball hawk while schooling Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford on the nuances of playing the position.
Speaking of Trufant and Alford, both young corners could be asked to play more man-to-man coverage against some of the unbalanced sets that offenses threw at the Falcons after seeing Nolan's defense bewilder Peyton Manning and Drew Brees at the Georgia Dome.
2012: 76 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 6 INTs, 9 passes defended
2013 projection: 79 tackles, 4 INTs, 10 passes defended
2012: 75 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 4 INTs, 8 passes defended
2013 projection: 82 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 4 INTs, 9 passes defended
2012: 1 tackle
2013: 12 tackles
Retaining William Moore's services may have been Atlanta's most underrated move this offseason. He's a thumper on the back end who adds some much-needed physicality to this defense. Look for Moore and DeCoud to pick up where they left off in 2012 when they both made their first Pro Bowl appearances as replacements for Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.
Charles Mitchell gets the nod as a special teams replacement for Chris Hope for now.