2009-2010 NFL Team Previews: Atlanta Falcons

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IJune 13, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 28:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons looks for room to run while taking on the St. Louis Rams at Georgia Dome on December 28, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Rams 31-27.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

2008 Record: 11-5, second in division

2009 Projection: 12-4, Division champ


Matt Ryan, coming into the league after a successful college career at Boston College, was nearly the pride of the NFL last season. His unexpected yet incredible talent let the Falcons finally forget about their mess (a.k.a. Michael Vick) and propelled Atlanta from a terrible season to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.

Ryan racked up nearly 3,500 yards through the air last season, and he's not about to stop. The Falcons' quarterback is going to be there for many years to come.

Grade: A

Running Backs

Michael Turner, in his first year as a Falcon last season, was also spectacular, finishing second in the league in yards (with nearly 1,700). The combination of Turner and Ryan makes for a dangerous combo for opposing defenses, who have to worry about both the pass and the run.

Behind Turner on the depth chart is Jerious Norwood, who is a decent running back himself. He actually was able to total more than 800 yards of rushing and seven touchdowns last season.

He may find himself playing a significant amount of split-back formation with Turner.

Grade: A

Wide Recievers/Tight Ends

Atlanta has an array of balanced, talented recievers. Roddy White lead the team last season with nearly 1,400 yards. With Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas, the Falcons are going to have several options to pass to on every play.

Future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez is newly acquired from Kansas City. His play will certainly help fill what was a weak spot last year at tight end, and will also provide a safe option for still mostly inexperienced Ryan.

However, Gonzalez is not a long-term option, and the Falcons are probably already at work scouting out a young player to fill in once Gonzalez retires.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

The Falcons' offensive line will probably not change during the offseason. It currently is a balanced group that has some talent along the entire line.

Although they may not really have any star among the bunch, the line is always instrumental in providing Turner the space to run that he needs to succeed.

Grade: B-


On the defensive line, John Abraham remains as one of the most dangerous lineman out there. However, besides him, Atlanta has a weak spot in that category.

At linebacker, several important roster changes have been made this offseason. Brooking and Boley have left for other teams, but Mike Peterson arrives from the Jaguars to help stabilize this position.

Curtis Lofton is also coming off a good year and will also help the Falcons' defense.

The loss of corner Dominique Foxworth is a huge loss for Atlanta, and Chris Houston will now have to fill in at a position possibly too important for his skill level. This could be a weakness to watch for in the upcoming season.

However, Erik Coleman definitely has the capability to help out Houston and produce some stats for himself, as well.

Grade: B

Special Teams

Jason Elam was a perfect fit for the Falcons last year after his previous stint with Denver. He finished 29-for-31 and led the league in percentage from 40+ yards: 100 percent (10/10).

Jerious Norwood is currently the kickoff returner, although he definitely has some areas to improve. Harry Douglas, the punt returner, is a decent player for the position.

Another bright spot is the punting game, which held opponents to the least total punt return yards in the league last season.

Grade: A-

Despite having a very tough schedule this season, the Falcons looked poised to accomplish their latest goal of getting a win in the playoffs. The only question is if Ryan has the composure to lead this team that far.


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