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Five questions: Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan ,Jurrell Casey AP

The Falcons had an impressive run of consistent regular season success.

Then they even won a playoff game.

But last year, a rash of injuries exposed some weaknesses in the roster, and the bottom fell out, in a big way, with a 4-12 record after five straight winning seasons.

But with the return to health of a few key players and an offseason emphasis on adding some toughness, they could be poised to bounce this year.

Here are five questions that could determine whether they’re ready to win double-digit games again.

1. Are they actually healthy now?

The Falcons kept the training wheels on wide receiver Julio Jones after last year’s broken foot, and it appears it paid off.

Jones caught a long touchdown last week, and looked like his old self talking it to the house. If he can stay on the field along with Roddy White, the Falcons are always going to have a chance to score.

2. Can the offensive line protect Matt Ryan?

That was a big issue last year, as injuries pecked away at a unit that wasn’t all that good to begin with.

And with all due respect to Sam Baker after his torn patellar tendon, the Falcons might actually have a better offensive line without him. First-rounder Jake Matthews is a natural left tackle, and Lamar Holmes gives them a bigger body to run behind on the right side. Baker’s six-year, $41 million contract is one they’ll regret sooner rather than later — if they don’t already.

3. Can toughness be quantified?

Maybe by dollars spent. The Falcons piled it on for free agent guard Jon Asamoah and defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson in the opening hours of free agency.

Those moves at least give them a personality along both fronts.

As talented as they were, the Falcons were correctly labeled a finesse team, but a tough guard and two stout run-stoppers should help.

4. Will Steven Jackson ever be well?

It sure would help the Falcons avoid the dip created by the loss of Tony Gonzalez if they had a consistent running game.

Jackson was a consistent producer on some bad teams, and then when he got to a good one he fell apart. He missed most of the preseason with a hamstring strain, and if that lingers, it could throw a serious kink in their plans.

The Jackson of old would be a perfect complement to their passing game, but it’s hard to tell if we’ll ever see that, or just the Old Jackson.

5. Is there enough defense left to matter?

Losing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon this offseason was a tough blow, as he’d have lent some stability to a group of day laborers and rookies.

They stay in nickel most of the time, which minimizes the need for impact linebackers, but it would help if they had some veteran presence there.

They need to get a consistent pass rush from the group including Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Babineaux, and there have been indications (at least in the past) they could scratch together enough pressure to matter.

But in a division with diverse offensive attacks, that side of the ball will miss Weatherspoon’s leadership and steady play.

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16 Responses to “Five questions: Atlanta Falcons”
  1. RegisHawk says: Aug 28, 2014 11:56 AM

    Jackson’s old. I’m surprised he’s even trying this season. He’ll be retiring soon.

  2. johnqhorn says: Aug 28, 2014 12:04 PM

    The only thing better than “taking it to the house” is “talking it to the house.”

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Aug 28, 2014 12:05 PM

    #3: After watching/hearing what some of these coaches think about what it means to be tough, I’m not sure their findings report is going to make too many journals.

  4. “I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that," Bill Leavy said in reference to Super Bowl XL. "It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better.” says: Aug 28, 2014 12:23 PM

    Falcons are overrated.

  5. 87hollywoodhorn says: Aug 28, 2014 12:26 PM

    Whodats fixing to put a big bag money on the table come week one! Haha dirty birds, yall gonna be the bountybirds! Whodats!

  6. holla2626 says: Aug 28, 2014 12:28 PM

    Kroy?

  7. salmen76 says: Aug 28, 2014 12:32 PM

    Don’t sugar coat it Darin! The Falcons will be lucky to win 4 games again this year. Really lucky. Their running game is nonexistent and the O line isn’t even pro football level, collegiate at best. Their defense might be worse than the Cowboys defense and that’s bad. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and Roddy White will get theirs but it won’t be enough when they play good teams because their defense will surrender points faster than they can score more. What little bit of confidence they enter the season with will evaporate following the 47 to 13 thumping they will take in week one from the Saints. Geaux Saints!

  8. buffaloisadumpsterandtheirfansaremorons says: Aug 28, 2014 12:58 PM

    Falcons are awful. Just plain awful.

  9. sportsfan18 says: Aug 28, 2014 1:21 PM

    When you can DOUBLE your win total from the previous season…

    And still not make the playoffs…

    You’re bad…

    4 & 12 to 8 & 8 and on the outside looking in come January.

  10. 6ball says: Aug 28, 2014 1:49 PM

    .
    I think it’s safe to say that Dimitroff’s gamble of trading 2 firsts, a second and 2 fourths for Julio Jones did not pan out for the Falcons. However, they made out better than the Browns who frittered away the 5 extra picks. It was your textbook lose – lose deal.
    .

  11. slick50ks says: Aug 28, 2014 2:10 PM

    I still find it hilarious when Asamoah and Tyson Jackson are refered to as “tough”.

    They’re anything but tough, but what do I know. I only watched them play every game for 5 years.

    Dimitroff + Pioli = failure

  12. mrlaloosh says: Aug 28, 2014 2:20 PM

    Question #6: why is Meek Smith still the coach?

  13. bigdinla says: Aug 28, 2014 2:48 PM

    Any OL that has to start Lamar Holmes is in trouble!

  14. bucsorbust says: Aug 28, 2014 2:53 PM

    No, no, no, no….and no.
    Seriously. No sarcasm here. I think they are in trouble, not just because they are division rivals, but because they have had so many key injuries and the O line is still not very good. They lost Tony Gonzalez, who are the biggest reason, literally, that Julio Jones got to many balls. Now they will key on him and see if Roddy White can pick up the extra attention, but I doubt it. Few running backs ever resurge after initial greatness with another team. I think Jackson is pretty much on the downside. They have Matt Ryan, but not much more.

  15. atlfan31833 says: Aug 28, 2014 3:28 PM

    Some people need to start looking up recipes for Crow!!

  16. doubleogator says: Aug 28, 2014 6:42 PM

    7-9 3rd place in the division

    Saints
    Tampa
    Falcons
    Carolina

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