Finishing out our rival's off-season changes, the Atlanta Falcons are as dangerous as any other team in our division.
The Falcons really struggled last year. With half of their losses being by a touchdown or less, you could almost see the Matty Ice melting. Talk about global warming? With injuries throughout the season, Ryan couldn't just "will" the team to victories. Roddy White suffered an ankle injury early on, followed by Julio Jones with a knee, then Stephen Jackson with a hamstring. Starting LT Sam Baker missed a few games with a knee injury. Their offense was falling apart and they didn't have a defense to sustain them. The offense finished the season 20th in points and 14th in yards gained. The defense finished 27th in both points and yards allowed. The team was 24th in turnover margin with a (-7). A huge fall for a team that, over the previous 3 season, had a top 10 scoring offense and a decent defense.
Off-season losses: Thomas DeCoud, starting FS, was the only real free agency loss. However, the retirement of both TE Tony Gonzalez and RB Jason Snelling could be just as big. The team also released "starting" FB Bradie Ewing, CB Asante Samuel, SLB Stephen Nicholas and RG Garrett Reynolds. Not the worst I've seen by any means, and if healthy, the team should be able to fill their needs fairly easily.
Off-season additions: The Falcons added OG Jon Asamoah to replace Reynolds and will attempt to replace Samuel by committee, adding CB Javier Arenas and Josh Wilson. NT Paul Soliai was brought in to start in their new 3-4 scheme, kicking Babineaux outside and Peters to a backup role. DE Tyson Jackson was added to play opposite Babineaux, forcing Bierman to stand up as a rush LB. Devin Hester will be their return specialist.
Draft: Jake Matthews was added to pair with Sam Baker as the bookend tackles and probably eventually take over the LT spot. Ra'Shede Hageman in the 2nd should be able to learn as a backup/rotational player this year at any of the 3 DL positions. 3rd round pick Dez Southward might compete for the FS spot, as the team didn't bring in anyone else to fill the role. He will probably compete with Zeke Motta and Dwight Lowry. RB Devonta Freeman could get some real playing time if Stephen Jackson continues to get hurt and ahead of 3rd down back Jacquizz Rodgers.
Overview: The biggest addition to the Falcons team this year will be starting healthy. If they can stay healthy, they could return to pre-2013 form and be very dangerous. The didn't replace Gonzalez at TE, but still have their big 3 WRs of Roddy, Julio and Harry Douglas. The OL should be improved with Asamoah and Matthews added to the right, complimenting Baker and Blalock on the left. We have no idea how quickly the team will be able to transition effectively to the 3-4 defense, but they started up front on the DL with Soliai, Babineaux, and Jackson, plus drafted depth. The Bucs have struggled at times adjusting to the 3-4 defense, as all teams in our division ran the 4-3 until the Saints switched last year. The Falcons are a big question mark in the division this year. Will they return to form? Will they continue to falter? What say you Bucs Nation?