It isn’t a great feeling when it seems the bully on the schoolyard continues to beat you up week after week. That is exactly happened to the Atlanta Falcons last year. The defensive line was getting pushed around, giving up an eye-opening 4.8 yards per carry last year. So to combat that, the team with a defensive-minded coach in Mike Smith did the only thing it could do – it got better.
Frank Schwab from Yahoo Sports “Shutdown Corner” wrote about how the team used free agency to lure quality players to the ATL, then used a second round pick on Re’Shede Hageman, a player who many predicted to be a first round lock.
The Falcons attacked the issue. Defensive end Tyson Jackson was signed from Kansas City, and massive defensive tackle Paul Soliai was added from Miami. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, one of the bright spots on the line, was re-signed.
If anything, the new bodies may help solve a defensive issue that was at its worst last season.
Now, it’s time to show how much better this team is on both sides of the ball. With injuries decimating the team, especially on the offensive line and at wide receiver, is this going to be the Falcons team of 2012, or will the roster succumb to the failures of last season and remain a bottom feeder?
Here are three bold predictions for 2014.
TONY GONZALEZ RETURNS
It would be the greatest thing the Falcons could hope for. But in reality, it will not happen. Gonzalez has taken his ball and left for home, leaving a huge hole at the tight end position. Gonzalez helped carry the offense when Julio Jones and Roddy White were injured. He is the best of all time at his position and with the weapons this team has healthy, Gonzalez would be a warm welcome back.
STEVEN JACKSON INJURES HIMSELF IN TRAINING CAMP
Three years, three injuries. Jackson seems to take a licking and keeps on ticking. But the Falcons signed him to be the tough and rugged back he was in St. Louis in his earlier years. Now, the Falcons have Jaquizz Rodgers if they decide to go small and let the mighty mite fight for the tough yards. The team can also look to Devonta Freeman, a rookie from FSU, who is more than capable of making a solid contribution to the running game and a receiver out of the backfield.
HARRY DOUGLAS WANTS MORE RECEPTIONS
Douglas could have been a free agent two years ago, but chose to re-sign with the team. He led the franchise in receptions last season with 85. Now that Julio Jones and Roddy White return, can Douglas get his hands on enough receptions to be happy? If not, teams like Houston, New England and Cleveland might come calling for his services.