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With the preseason finally over and the regular season now right around the corner what can we expect from the 2014 Atlanta Falcons? 12 months ago the Falcons were embarking on what they hoped would be another run at a SuperBowl, as we all know this turned out to be a pipe dream as the team ultimately fell apart.
The 2013 Falcons were too complacent, too cocky, they lacked hunger and they believed their own hype to the point that it ultimately became their downfall. As the wheels fell off last year it became abundantly clear that major changes were needed at Flowery Branch. To their credit, Arthur Blank, Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have tried to address a lot of the holes on this team. It was clear after last season that the ‘Mike Smith message’ had gotten stale, the system which had been so effective since 2008 had finally run aground and a new course, a new system was needed. One of the major changes we have seen this season is a transition from a ‘finesse’ team to a more physical, in your face team that is hopefully more geared to win in the playoffs.
The 2014 Falcons will score points, hopefully a lot of them, the offence looks ready to have a very good season as Matt Ryan is surrounded by weapons and pass blockers to the point where he could well have an MVP type season. On defense the Falcons are built around stopping the run. The Falcons have invested in a bunch of big bodied defensive lineman this offseason in an effort to make the defense stout and physical. One of the major issues last season was the Falcons inability to stop opposing teams running the ball, as a result the team was labeled soft and this nametag has seemingly snowballed all offseason to the point where the lack of toughness has been way overblown both by the media and the team. Don’t get me wrong, the 2013 Falcons were soft but this toughness crusade is only one of many misplaced pieces to the puzzle.
While the team has tried to fix the holes in the roster this offseason there are still many areas of concern heading into the season. The Falcons boast arguably the worst TE and Linebacker groups in the NFL and they still lack a player capable of consistently getting pressure on the QB. While there are still holes on this team the 2014 roster is a much better team than in 2013 and their record this year will reflect that
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While the coaches won’t admit it 2014 is a rebuilding year for the Falcons, the team is gearing up for a second shot at a SuperBowl with Matt Ryan at the helm, and this year is the first step along that path. Now of course, unlike most rebuilding teams the Falcons have their franchise QB already in place and so the team (hopefully) won’t reach the depths that some franchises reach (yes Oakland I’m looking at you). We shouldn’t expect the Falcons to win 13 games this year but we should expect a competitive and aggressive team that is in with a fighting chance of winning all 16 games. The major change from last year is that the Falcons won’t be physically outmatched week in and week out, Matt Ryan won’t be thrown around like a rag doll and teams won’t simply waltz through the defensive line untouched, that’s the plan anyway. What the Falcons must refrain from doing is playing in a way that tries to erase the memories of last year. This offseason a big worry about the team has been their seeming overcorrection from the 2013 season. Unless it’s careful the 2014 team could end up playing in a way that avenges the 2013 team rather than playing in a way to win, hopefully the team remembers, ‘toughness’ doesn’t win you games, points do.