Dec 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) looks to the sideline as a timeout is called against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of the final regular season game at Candlestick Park. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The forgettable 2013 is behind the Atlanta Falcons. And after drop-offs in most every offensive category, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Dirty Birds offense can assume its spot as one of the league’s elite. Here are five reasons the Falcons offense will be one of the most potent in the NFL in 2014:
Health. Great WRs help make great QBs. Bradshaw had Swann and Stallworth. Montana had Rice and Taylor. Brady had … um, Deion Branch and … OK. Nevermind. Point is, Roddy White and Julio Jones missed chunks of last year. Harry Douglas is a fine journeyman, but he’s no No. 1 receiver. If Matt Ryan’s top targets can avoid the injury pitfalls, look to see the Falcons as one of the top five offenses in the league.
Finally, a running game. Steven Jackson has rededicated himself in the offseason, and looks to come into Tuesday’s OTA’s with a renewed focus. He’s one of the most talented backs at the tail-end of his career, and he needs a big season to wash the taste of 2013 out of his mouth. Jake Matthews can be the anchor the line needs to bring the Falcons out of the NFL rushing cellar.
Devin Hester. The Falcons lost a huge go-to guy with Tony Gonzalez’s retirement. Hester can fill that spot, sliding into the slot as a great outlet when Ryan’s primary targets are covered. Additionally, Hester still has special teams magic left him in, and short fields are always an offense’s good friend.
Job security. Mike Smith is still the man, and Arthur Blank no doubt knows that 2013 was a fluke. But you can only have one fluke. But OC Dirk Koetter will be the first sacrificial lamb should the offense sputter. There is every reason to believe he will be doing his all to ensure that the Falcons offense clicks on all cylinders in 2014.
A chip on Matt Ryan’s shoulder. He wore the badge for a long time — clutch in the regular season, choker when it counted. It was never a fair label, but he handled it with the class and dignity you expect from a leader like Ryan. Once he led the Falcons to the NFC title game, critics had to find new shots to take at him. 2013 gave them plenty of opportunities, unfortunately. Now, Matty Ice has a chance to remember the sting of 2013 and parlay that into a huge 2014.
When the Falcons kick off their OTAs on Tuesday, there is something new and different for the Falcons organization. Gone are the days when a winning season is an aberration. These days in Atlanta, we win. It’s what we do. Time to go work and show that 2013 was the exception. Rise up.