Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White and 4 Players Who Must Step Up

Alex WelchCorrespondent IISeptember 27, 2011

Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White and 4 Players Who Must Step Up

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    We all know the Atlanta Falcons have been disappointing this season. I don't think there's a single fan out there whose expectations haven't been let down.

    After suffering a 16-13 defeat in Tampa Bay, the Falcons have fallen to 1-2 on the season. Atlanta lost its first regular season game in the 2010 season, but went on to win the next four in a row. This season isn't quite turning out the same.

    Thankfully, they play the Seattle Seahawks this weekend, a team that ranks 31st in total yards per game in 2011. Although Atlanta is a clear favorite in this matchup, nothing is certain for the team at this point.

    There are several areas, on offense and defense, that are in dire need of improvement. There are also several players that will have to step up for this team to get back on the right track.

Roddy White

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    Atlanta's Pro Bowl wide receiver was a vital key to their 13-3 record last season. If they want to get back to the team that everyone was expecting to see, Roddy White is going to have to continue to be a huge factor.

    White had a great game on paper against Tampa Bay. He hauled in nine catches for 140 yards and was targeted a ridiculous 17 times. The only thing missing was...? 

    A touchdown. White dropped a few passes on Sunday, including one that would have put six points on the board for the Dirty Birds. This is the last thing a struggling team needs. White was known to drop a pass or two early in his career, but that Roddy hasn't shown up in long time.

    Matt Ryan needs to continue target his go-to-guy, I don't think we'll see those kind of errors very often. White having a good day leads to the Falcons having a good day.

The Entire Offensive Line

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    I could have listed every Falcons' offensive lineman in slides 1-5, but I figured that would get a little redundant.

    I'm not surprising anyone with this pick. The offensive line has been atrocious in the first three games this season. Adding four more sacks from Sunday's game, Matt Ryan has now been sacked 13 times this year, third worst in the NFL.

    Ryan was leveled on one occasion by Adrian Clayborn, leading to a fumble that went the Buccaneers' way. 

    If they keep allowing this kind of pressure, Ryan isn't going to last much longer. Everyone on the O-line needs to improve, no one is excluded.

Matt Ryan

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    Now that I've addressed the offensive line's issues, Matt Ryan is going to be singled out as well.

    The Falcons' fourth-year quarterback hasn't looked himself in 2011. It's hard to criticize him too much when he's constantly getting hit, but he has made some poor decisions in the passing game at times.

    Ryan did all he could in the second half to get this team back in the game, but it still wasn't enough. They were stopped on a fourth and three at the Tamp Bay seven-yard line and an offensive holding penalty late in the fourth quarter resulted in settling for a field goal.

    We know that Matty Ice is capable of leading this team, we've seen plenty of it in the pass three seasons. He needs to be more consistent, though, to get the Falcons back to a positive record.

    He did well running the no-huddle offense late in game against Tampa. Maybe they should try that more often.

John Abraham

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    John Abraham has gone two games in a row without recording a sack. He did not go two games all of last season without recording at least one sack.

    Abraham is a leader on this defense. He sacked Jay Cutler twice in Week 1, and we'd like to see more of that. It's not only Abraham, The Falcons have gone two games in a row without recording any sacks as a team.

    So, they've allowed Matt Ryan to get sacked 13 times, and they aren't pressuring the quarterback enough on defense. Not a good combination.

    Abraham receives a ton of attention from opposing O-lines, but they still expect him to get in that backfield. And while we're talking about Abraham, where is Ray Edwards?

    He has yet to record a sack here in Atlanta. He had the big run after a fumble recovery against Philadelphia, but we've yet to see the reason he was really signed to this team.

    Their run defense looked a little better, as they held LeGarrette Blount to 81 yards on 24 carries, but the next step is putting pressure on the quarterback. The good news for the Falcons is that they play the team tied for the most sacks allowed this week.

Eric Weems

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    This probably isn't the first thing on everyone's mind, but I want to see more out of the kick return game.

    Last season Eric Weems became a Pro-Bowler for his return skills. The Falcons re-signed him in the offseason, hoping for more of that explosive action he brings.

    Well, after three games, we've yet to see much of anything from Weems. Despite the new kickoff rules there are still chances of breaking big returns.

    Weems' had one punt return for 19 yards in the game against the Eagles, his season high so far. What happened after that return? The Falcons scored a touchdown.

    With the team struggling at times, Weems has the ability to ignite this offense. We saw it happen several times last year, one big return and the momentum is all in favor of Atlanta.