Thursday, August 27, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Atlanta Falcons

ATLANTA FALCONS                                                  

2014 Record:  6-10-0 (3rd in NFC South)


New Players in 2015 -  LB Justin Durant; DL Adrian Clayborn; WR Leonard Hankerson; TE Tony Moeaki; TE Jacob Tamme; DL Tyson Jackson; LB Brooks Reed; OL Jared Smith; DL/LB O'Brien Schofield.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 8th in NFL (378.2 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 32nd in NFL (398.3 ypg)

Offense:  Matt Ryan will be back for his eighth season as the Atlanta quarterback after he had 4,694 passing yards last season with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Backing him up will be either T.J. Yates or recently signed veteran Rex Grossman.
The running game will be without Steven Jackson this year after he was not re-signed in the off-season. Devonta Freeman (248 rushing yards with a 3.8 ypc average and one touchdown along with 30 receptions for 225 yards and one score) will likely be the starting halfback. Rookie Tevin Coleman (Indiana) and Jerome Smith (144 yards, 6.3 ypc and two TD) are other possibilities to carry the ball this season.
The wide receivers are once again Roddy White (80 receptions for 921 yards with seven TD) and Julio Jones, who made 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six scores. Devin Hester (38, 504, two TD and one punt return for TD) is back this season as a third option.
Leonard Hankerson comes over from Washington looking for a spot after missing the last two seasons with numerous injuries. Also available will be Eric Weems and rookie Justin Hardy (East Carolina). The tight end will either be Levine Toilolo (31, 238, two TD), Tony Moeaki (with Seattle last year) or Jacob Tamme, who had 14 receptions for 109 yards and two scores with Denver last season.
The O-Line has center Joe Hawley, along with guards Harland Gunn and Jon Asamoah. The tackles are Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.

Defense:  Playing in the 4-3 set, the Falcons will have Tyson Jackson and either rookie Vic Beasley (Clemson) or Adrian Clayborn at the ends. The tackles are Jonathan Babineaux and Paul Soliai.
The linebacking crew consists of Paul Worrilow in the middle with Brooks Reed and Justin Durant playing outside. O'Brien Schofield, Allen Bradford and team sack leader Kroy Biermann (4 1/2 QB sacks) provide depth.
The secondary has corners Desmond Trufant (three interceptions) and rookie Jalen Collins (LSU) or Robert Alford (three picks) starting this year. The safeties will likely be William Moore and Kemal Ishmael, who led the team with four picks a year ago. Providing backup will be Sean Baker, Ricardo Allen, Dezmen Southward and Charles Godfrey.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 -  If the Falcons want to contend once again in the NFC South division, they will have to be much better on defense than they were a year ago.
Atlanta finished dead last in total defense last season, giving up 398 yards per game while also allowing 26 points per game. The pass defense was abysmal, giving up 280 yards per game, including a good number of big plays allowed. A better pass rush is also a must in 2015 as the Falcons had a meager 22 QB sacks last season.
The offense was pretty decent, scoring 23.5 points per game while finishing eighth in the league overall, averaging 378 yards per game.
Matt Ryan is the leader of the offense and knows his two receivers (White and Jones) extremely well. The running game must improve after gaining just 94 yards per game in 2014.
Head Coach Dan Quinn knows his team can compete with New Orleans and Carolina for the division crown, having just missed by one game last season.
The Falcons can get after the ball, evidenced by their plus-five turnover rate a year ago. More of that would help the defense as some new faces are being added via free agency and the NFL draft.
The key for the team will be the ability to beat the division foes and try to take advantage of what (on paper) looks to be a favorable schedule through the first ten weeks.
An 8-8 record is possible, and that may be enough to contend in the division once again. The Falcons can either soar back to the playoffs this year or be left out for the third straight season.
Stay tuned.

Week 1 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2 - at New York Giants
Week 3 - at Dallas Cowboys
Week 4 - vs. Houston Texans
Week 5 - vs. Washington Redskins
Week 6 - at New Orleans Saints
Week 7 - at Tennessee Titans
Week 8 - vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 9 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 10 - BYE WEEK
Week 11 - vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 12 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 13 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 14 - at Carolina Panthers
Week 15 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 16 - vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 17 - vs. New Orleans Saints

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