2nd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Atlanta Falcons

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we turn our attention to the NFC South, as we begin with the Atlanta Falcons, who finished in third place in the mediocre division last season.

The Falcons have a new head coach — Dan Quinn — coming off of two straight disappointing seasons. Quinn, who previously served as the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks, will look to improve a Falcons defense that ranked 27th in the league in 2014, and was a big reason for the team finishing with a 6-10 record last season.

QB Matt Ryan had a good season, throwing for 4,694 yards and 28 touchdowns, The biggest beneficiary of his performance was WR Julio Jones, who caught 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. Veteran WR Roddy White had 921 yards and caught seven touchdown passes from Ryan. Then there’s the running game, which ranked just 24th in the league. It was led by RB Stephen Jackson, who ran for 707 yards and six touchdowns.

The Falcons tried to shore up their running game for this season by selecting RB Tevin Coleman, out of Indiana, in the third round of this year’s draft. He is expected to compete with RB Devonta Freeman, who saw limited playing time with the Falcons in his rookie season in 2014, for the starting job. Jones and White return this season, but Ryan is losing one member of his receiving core — TE Tony Gonzalez retired in the offseason following an impressive 17-year career. Free agent TE Jacob Tamme is expected to get the starting job at the position, which will signify a significant drop-off in production from Gonzalez.

The Falcons are in a winnable division — 7-8-1 won the division last season — and if the young running backs can perform well, they should compete for the division title. So what does the schedule hold for the Falcons? A rough stretch to begin the season, with three straight games against NFC East teams, including back-to-back road games with the Giants and Cowboys. Later in the season, they host the Colts in Week 11 and end the season with back-to-back home games against divisional foes in the reigning division champion Panthers and Saints. The Falcons have a chance to win the division — especially with Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin out for the season witht a torn ACL — but having an improved defense and running game are going to be the keys to success for the team. If one of the young running backs can break out in 2015, the Falcons have a real shot at winning the division.

Source: http://www.atlantafalcons.com, http:/www.pro-football-reference.com


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