2016 NFL Season Preview: Atlanta Falcons
Ahhhhhhh September, Virgo season, school is back in session, and most importantly FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!! For some Christmas is known as the most wonderful time of year, not for me. There is nothing I look forward to more than pulling out my Julio jersey and heading to the Georgia Dome to see my boys take the field. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have the pleasure and pain of being a diehard Atlanta Falcons fan. I start every season full of hope, and this upcoming season will be no different. So, let’s dive into some football. This is Jaleesa’s Atlanta Falcons 2016 season preview.
I’ll start with the obvious…yes, we started last season 5-0 and then we went to New Orleans where they clearly cast some voodoo spell on us and we ended the season 8-8. Yes, we ended 1-5 in the NFC South, which some would argue is the weakest division in the NFL. Yes, I hoped, prayed and wished that both Dmitroff and Shanahan would find homes elsewhere; unfortunately that was not realistic and they are still here. All hope is not lost, well not yet it isn’t.
The Falcons made some interesting moves in the off-season bringing back LB Sean Weatherspoon, adding C Alex Mack, and drafting S Keanu Neal. These additions can definitely, maybe…hopefully help this Falcons team. This Falcons team is full of uncertainties, and that is the struggle of being a fan. We already know Matt Ryan is going to throw the ball for some major yardage. We also know that he might throw the ball into the hands of the other team at any given time on any given Sunday. We know that Julio is going to dominate the perimeter, as he always has. Everything else is up in the air, and with the toughest schedule in the NFL we can only hope our boys pull it together.
Atlanta has one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL when everyone plays their part. Frankly we need Ryan to stop throwing the ball so much and allow RB’s Freeman and Coleman to run that ball down the field. The addition of Alex Mack at center should definitely improve the offensive line production in terms of protecting our QB and we still have Julio, who frankly can catch anything. The addition of Sanu as the No.2 should help replace what we lost in Roddy White and give Ryan another (sort of) reliable WR. Tamme is solid at TE, not spectacular but he gets the job done, and I have finally stopped calling him “other tight end”. Let’s face it though, offense is not our weakness.
We know that offense scores point, but defense wins games. We ended the season in last place in Pass Rush with a pitiful 19 total sacks. Vic Beasley Jr., who was explosive at Clemson, led with a total of 4 sacks last season in his rookie season. Beasley was moved from DE to LB in hopes that he would go after QB’s more but he hasn’t shown much improvement in the preseason. Dmitroff really needed to address the pass rush in the offseason, and all he did was add Veteran Dwight Freeney. Freeney is coming off an impressive season with Arizona with eight sacks, but with only nine sacks in his previous three seasons, you can’t really rely on him either. Perhaps he can serve as a mentor to Beasley, and together they can figure out a way to improve our pass rush. Falcons 1st round pick, S Keanu Neal, who has been compared to Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks, was a good addition. Unfortunately he will be out at least the 1st two games of the season due to surgery on his knee, and Deshon Goldson will take over as safety.
All isn’t lost on the defensive side of the ball. We still have C Desmond Trufant, who in my opinion has some of the best cover skills in the league. If Trufant can catch and hold onto some interceptions he will be the shining star on defense. I think it’s also safe to mention the duo of rookie LB’s made up of De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones. Both showed speed and great athletic ability during the preseason. We’ll see what they’re really made of when they start on Sunday against the Buccaneers.
There is definitely potential for the Falcons to pull off a winning season this year. The keys will be winning the damn NFC South, because we are better than the Saints and Buccaneers and there’s no way Carolina is going to go 15-1 again. Also, not turning the ball over, especially in the red zone, will also help us fight our way back into the playoffs. At the end of the day we have some talent on both sides of the ball, enough talent to get us a winning record this year despite the difficulty of our schedule. Only time will tell if this Falcons team will Rise Up.
Diehard Fan Prediction: 10-6