Jun 18, 2014; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive linemen listen to line coach Mike Tice (cap and sun glasses) explain a drill during Minicamp at Falcons Training Complex. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Who will be the Falcons’ MVP this year?
Jake Bennett — The Falcons MVP will be the same as it has been for the last six years. Matt Ryan, with a healthy group of receivers and a revamped offensive line, will finally be able to shine as bright as some of the NFL’s biggest stars in 2014.
Ben Grazebrook — For me the clear candidate to be the Falcons MVP is this year is Matt Ryan. The new offensive line will do wonders for Ryan and if his receivers can stay healthy I would expect Ryan to be challenging for league MVP and not just the Falcons.
Sunny Minhas — Matt Ryan. I think he’ll have his best season.
Cody Daniel — The Falcons’ MVP this season will be Roddy White. With Julio Jones still recovering from his foot injury and Tony Gonzales being out of town, White will be targeted much more and will be the Atlanta’s main source of offense.
Mike Gibbons — Stephen Jackson. A stellar 2014 will show he is still a back in his prime, and will give Matt Ryan the running game he needs. Ryan can put up gaudy MVP-type numbers, but not without a solid running game.
2. What will the Falcons’ record be this year?
Jake Bennett — I think a safe answer would be 10, but I will go with 11 because of my trust in Matt Ryan to clinch the win in the 4th quarter. The Falcons lost many games last season by a touchdown or less, and some of the ones lost by more than that were still in reach. I fully expect Atlanta to at least return to playoff form, and compete in the NFC South.
Ben Grazebrook — Despite being a much improved team from 12 months ago the Falcons roster still has some significant holes. Both the FS and TE position have question marks over them at this point and the team still lacks a reliable pass rusher. As a result at this time I think the Falcons record next season will be 9-7.
Sunny Minhas — 9-7, just miss the playoffs.
Cody Daniel — The Falcons’ record this season will be 10-6. Best-case scenario would be a 12-4 season while the worst-case scenario would be another injury-plagued season in which Atlanta wins only five or six games.
Mike Gibbons — 16-0 would be my first choice, but reality says 10-6, and a borderline playoff team.
3. Who is this year’s breakout star?
Jake Bennett — Jonathan Massaquoi is creating quite a buzz this offseason, and since Dimitroff opted to pass on a top edge rusher in this year’s draft, the 3rd year pass rusher will have every chance in the world to succeed. Adding Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, Ra’Shede Hageman, and resigning Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux will (hypothetically) do wonders freeing up Jonathan, and hopefully for other young defenders as well.
Ben Grazebrook — Joplo Bartu is my choice for breakout star this year. Bartu had an impressive rookie season considering the situation he found himself in and with an improved defense around him I see Bartu breaking out in a major way this year. Bartu is the kind of player Mike Nolan loves. He can do it all and I see him becoming a household name by the end of the season.
Sunny Minhas — Robert Alford. I think he has as much talent as Trufant but it needed to be more matured.
Cody Daniel — This year’s breakout star will be second-year cornerback Desmond Trufant. After having a stellar rookie campaign, the understanding of how to play at the pro level in addition to an offseason of work will result in Trufant making the biggest strides next season.
Mike Gibbons –– Levine Toilolo. He’s got Tony Gonzalez’s immortal shoes to fill. But I think he’s got the chops for it.
4. What is the one game you are most looking forward to this year?
Jake Bennett — Since I’m going to the Browns game in Week 12, the obvious choice for me is that. But if I were going off hype alone, Falcons-Saints Week 1 takes the cake. Nothing beats a good clash of divisional foes, especially when the foe is New Orleans.
Ben Grazebrook — The one game I am looking forward to most this year is the Falcons vs Lions in London simply because the Falcons are coming to my home town and I get a chance to see them play.
Sunny Minhas — Week 1 vs Saints. They’re a strong, well built team and will help answer a whole host of questions about the Falcons.
Cody Daniel — The game I am most looking forward to is opening week when the Saints come into the Georgia Dome to take their first loss of the season by the Dirty Birds.
Mike Gibbons — Again, optimist says the Super Bowl. Realist says a week one win against the Saints would really start the year off right.
5. What is one move the Falcons could make that would instantly make them a Super Bowl contender?
Jake Bennett — The one move that could instantly make Atlanta Super Bowl contenders is addition of a top notch pass rusher. Next offseason brings a bevy of guys who can sack the quarterback, most notably Brian Orakpo, Justin Houston, and Greg Hardy. With Atlanta scheduled to have a good chunk of money to play with, expect the Falcons to be chasing at least one of them.
Ben Grazebrook — The one move the Falcons could make that would make them a Super Bowl contender would be trading for Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs. Houston, who played at UGA, is an outside linebacker who would come in and immediately improve the Falcons pass rush. Houston is an elite player at his position and he would instantly upgrade this defense which is crying out for a player of Houston’s ability.
Sunny Minhas — Trading for some superstar pass rusher will do the trick, whoever it may be.
Cody Daniel — The one move that would make the Falcons Super Bowl contenders would be simply helping Matty Ice take that next step as a leader, offensive general and winner.
Mike Gibbons — Some sort of voodoo high priest/shaman who can cast a spell of good health over the team. Clearly, he has not been brought in yet.