Dec 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) waves to the fans after the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. The Panthers won 21-20. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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How big will the loss of Tony Gonzalez be, and who will step up to fill that spot?
Jake Bennett — In all honesty, I don’t believe the loss of Gonzalez will be that noticeable by most fans. Sure, Matt is losing an extremely trustworthy safety blanket for crucial moments, but the Falcons receiving corps is nothing to laugh about. Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas all have at least one 1,000 yard season under their belt, and can pick up the slack in more 3WR sets.
Cody Daniel — The loss of Tony Gonzalez will be huge, as he was Matt Ryan’s favorite target. In addition to Julio Jones and Roddy White being targeted more, Harry Douglas will have to step up to help make up for the loss of Gonzalez.
Ben Grazebrook — Losing Tony Gonzalez is a big loss especially on third down and red zone plays, however, with Tony G now gone the Falcons will hopefully look to open up the playbook and bring in more 4 and 5 WR sets hopefully resulting in a more vertical, explosive offense. No one player will replace Gonzalez but expect a combination of Toilolo, Douglas and Freeman to be at the forefront of replacing his production.
Sunny Minhas — The loss of Gonzalez will be a severe loss if we don’t change our philosophy but a commitment to the running game has been echoed this offseason so I’m sure that won’t be the case. Just the threat of a run game will help make up for the loss of Gonzo.
Mike Gibbons — I have beaten the drum for weeks, but I think Levine Toilolo is poised to step up and fill a very big role. We will miss Tony Gonzalez for all that he was, but bring on TGII.
How many yards will Stephen Jackson, Jacquizz Rogers and Devonta Freeman, respectively, rack up this year?
Jake Bennett — I could see Jackson racking up nearly 1,000 yards with an improved line. And possibly around 200-300 each for Rodgers and Freeman.
Cody Daniel — Stephen Jackson will rack up around 1100 yards. Jacquizz Rogers will have around 350, but will be huge as a receiver out of the backfield. Devonta Freeman will have around 450-525 yards.
Ben Grazebrook — Steven Jackson didn’t play badly last year he was just given no help by his offensive line and battled injuries early on in the year. I think Jackson has one last hurrah left and I expect him to have a big season. Prediction, 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns. As for Freeman and Rodgers I see both being given around 50/100 rushing attempts and therefore I see both rushing for around 400 yards with a handful of touchdowns.
Sunny Minhas — I think we’ll see a RBBC approach this year as the season wears on, with Devonta Freeman to start stealing carries. I predict Jackson to rack up 800 yards, Rodgers to get 300 yards and Freeman to go for 750 yards.
Mike Gibbons — Jackson is going to log around 1,500, and Quiz and Freeman will split about 500 total. The equivalent of a 2,000-yard rusher is just what Matt Ryan needs.
What record puts Mike Smith on the hot seat after this season?
Jake Bennett — Anything below a playoff trip puts Mike Smith on the chopping block. We’ve seen the kind of talent that this club possesses, and if Smith fails to utilize that, I’m afraid Blank will have finally reached his end of his patience.
Cody Daniel –– I believe anything less than 7 wins will put Mike Smith on the hot seat after this season. The only exception to that will be if the Falcons are plagued with injures again.
Ben Grazebrook — Any record below .500 will see Mike Smith on the hot seat this season.
Sunny Minhas — I think any losing record will put Smith’s job in jeopardy. I could see 8-8 resulting in him surviving another year but I think a losing record will be his doom.
Mike Gibbons — Six or fewer wins without excuses and he’s in trouble. Seven or eight wins and there better have been some bad calls, crazy bad luck and maybe a hint of conspiracy for Smith to feel secure.
If you knew either Julio Jones or Roddy White would miss the season to injury, who would you rather have stay healthy and why?
Jake Bennett –– I would rather have Julio stay healthy. He’s more athletically gifted than Roddy, and is one of the most talented players in the entire league. A healthy Julio means big games for Matt Ryan.
Cody Daniel — I would rather have Julio Jones healthy for the entire season over Roddy White. When Julio is healthy, he can arguably be one of the top three receivers in the league.
Ben Grazebrook — At this stage of their careers the choice between Roddy and Julio in my mind is an easy one. Julio is a top 3 receiver in the league when healthy and he is a player who frightens opposing defenses. As we saw last year when he went down, when this team is without Julio defenses are able to suffocate this offense. Both Julio and Roddy are great players but at this stage of their careers the choice between the two is a fairly simple one.
Sunny Minhas — Julio Jones, hands down. Roddy White is still a great player and has fantastic chemistry with Ryan, but he looked like he was a step slower this past season. I didn’t realise it until I saw old Falcons clips from 2009 and 2010 and the difference is stark. On the other hand, Julio Jones still continues to ascend with a sky-high potential.
Mike Gibbons — I’m a Bama grad. Julio.
If you could have any Falcon in his prime and put him on this year’s team, who would it be and why?
Jake Bennett — Easy, Claude Humphrey. Sure, he isn’t the best schematic fit for Atlanta at this moment in time, but his pass rushing abilities on the outside would make an enormous impact to the Falcon’s defense.
Cody Daniel — If I could have any Falcon in his prime on this team, I would pick Keith Brooking. When Brooking was a Falcon, he was an outstanding defender and great leader. With Sean Weatherspoon out for the season, the Falcons could desperately use a big force in their linebacking crew.
Ben Grazebrook — Deion Sanders, one of the best corners to ever play the game. Sanders would make an already strong Falcons secondary formidable.
Sunny Minhas — Claude Humphrey. A dominant pass rusher will help any team and any scheme.
Mike Gibbons — The Hammer, especially in light of Sean Weatherspoon’s injury. I’d love to see Jessie Tuggle donning a Falcons uniform again.