Following a bounce back season in which the team eclipsed eleven wins, the Falcons will look to dominate the NFC south once again.
The Falcons realized their weakness on defense as general manager Thomas Dimitroff and company used all of their draft picks on defensive players.
If Michael Turner can remain a steady force, and if Matt Ryan can continue grow with Roddy White the Falcons will have a prosperous offensive set.
Matt Ryan must follow a tremendous break out rookie season in hopes of not catching a sophomore slump. Although, Ryan’s arm lost the heat within the final few games of the season, he still displayed he has the tools to be a successful passer within the NFL.
Within Ryan’s performances last season he displayed he can accurately throw, move within the pocket, and maintain the pressure of a fourth quarter comeback. If he can maintain his consistency from beginning to end, Ryan and the Falcons can find themselves within the playoffs for a second consecutive season. If not, the Falcons have a back-up in Chris Redman who may be able to do enough just to get by within the open NFC South. (8.5)
With a duel powered backfield in Michael “the Burner” Turner and Jarious Norwood, the running back position is possibly the top position unit on the team. Last season Turner displayed his tools as a starting running back as he ran for over 1,600 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Turner has the ability to not only break tackles after the initial hit, but he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Norwood provides the Falcon’s with a good change of pace runner as his speed and agility can create long runs. (9.5)
Led by Pro Bowler Rody White, who had over 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns last season, the Falcons receivers are attempting to once again capitalize from a unique season.
White’s speed and ability to get open in coverage has caused him to progress to one of the most underrated receivers within the league. Michael Jenkins’ speed and Brian Finneran’s sure hands and lanky frame also can provide for good targets once again for Ryan.
Harry Douglas' speed and versatility will definitely be missed due to him being placed on IR and out for the season because of his torn ACL. The final piece of the Falcons’ receiving corps was established through a trade in which one of the best tight ends of all time, Tony Gonzalez, was sent to the Falcons in exchange for a 2010 second round draft pick. (8.3)
With major improvements in pass protection and the running game, the Falcons have developed a solid offensive line behind the coaching of Paul Boudreau. The O-line proved themselves as they opened up gaping holes for Turner and lowered the sack total from 2007.
Veteran center Todd McClure is the base of this line as his agility provides for versatile blocking schemes. There are no other standout performers; however, if Boudreau can continue to work with the other components the Falcons can continue last year’s success. (7.6)
The Falcons defensive line continues to be a building piece. Although veteran end John Abraham is showing strides within the off season to get back to his peak, the Falcons still have some room for improvement. Jamal Anderson will be entering his third season and can be a versatile piece to the scattered puzzle.
Anderson has the ability to move inside on passing downs and cause the pocket to collapse assisting Abraham and Chauncey Davis off the edge. The run defense should be more controllable as 6’ 2", 299 lb Peria Jerry was the first round selection. Jerry’s strength and quickness off the snap can plug the gaps and cause possible double teams. (7.8)
Following the season the Falcons made a complete revamp of the linebacking corps as they released longtime middle backer Keith Brooking and Michael Boley. With the signing of veteran free agent Mike Peterson the Falcons have upgraded the linebacking corps bringing experience and a strong presence against the run.
Second year linebacker and former Sooner standout Curtis Lofton should have a productive season as his athleticism will be used in blitzes and pass coverage. (7.8)
With Erick Coleman returning to the line-up this season following his 95 tackle performance a year ago the falcons have at least one candidate to build off of. The other safety is still up in the air between Eric Brock, Thomas DeCoud, and ’09 second round draftee William Moore.
DeCoud seems to be the most likely candidate for the position as he has explosion on the hit and athleticism to cover deep routes. Chris Houston should earn one of the cornerback spots while David Irons, Chevis Jackson, and Chris Owens will battle for the opposite slot. (7.2)
Running back Jarious Norwood will once again return kicks as last season the Falcons ranked within the top ten in the league. Kicker Jason Elam will bring his golden leg back to kick pressure game winning field goals while franchise tagged punter Michael Koenen will bring precision to the punting game. Koenen used accuracy and touch to drop 25 punts inside the 20 yard line last season which gives the offense a 10 percent chance to score. (9.3)
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