Atlanta Falcons will rely heavily on their rookie class in 2015


The Atlanta Falcons had about as good an offseason as they could have hoped for. It started with the hiring of Dan Quinn, who addressed a number of major needs excellently via free agency and the draft. To turn the team’s fortunes around, however, the Falcons will be relying on their rookie class in 2015.

It’s entirely possible Vic Beasley and Jalen Collins have quiet debut seasons in the NFL. This doesn’t mean they are busts, it can just be this way as young players adjust to the NFL.

Vic Beasley is the man brought in to revamp the pass rush; Jalen Collins was added to shore up the secondary. If these two don’t perform this year, will the Falcons really see much improvement to these areas?

The answer is yes, but not to the extent Dan Quinn will be hoping.

Quinn’s scheme will utilize the strengths of each player, which alone will be a benefit to the team. Add in some experienced free agent acquisitions with the likes of Brooks Reed and Justin Durant and we should again see more improvements.

But take out the rookies, and is it enough?

In short — no. But of course, you could say that about any NFL team’s first two picks. If Tampa Bay don’t get production this year from Jameis Winston and Donovan Smith, 2015 will be a long season for them. If Amari Cooper and Mario Edwards have quiet rookie campaigns, Oakland will suffer because of it.

It goes without saying that the Falcons need some production from their early picks, but we should always tamper expectations for rookies.

Sep 13, 2014; Bowling Green, OH, USA; ndiana Hoosiers running back Tevin Coleman (6) against the Bowling Green Falcons at Doyt L. Perry Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It’s entirely possible Vic Beasley and Jalen Collins have quiet debut seasons in the NFL. This doesn’t mean they are busts, it can just be this way as young players adjust to the NFL. NFL executive Bill Polian believes Beasley will struggle initially.

“Vic Beasley, obviously, was brought in to be a pass rusher,” Polian said on the Late Hits show on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday. “He’ll probably struggle for the first half of the season. All rookies do. Dwight Freeney did. Robert Mathis did. Most of them do.”

As for Collins, it’s tough for rookie corners to come right in and make an impact, which is why I expect Robert Alford to start outside with Collins being used at nickel initially. Over time, Collins will adapt more and start outside opposite Desmond Trufant.

What about the other rookies?

Will Devonta Freeman be able to carry the run game if Tevin Coleman doesn’t make an instant contribution? Will a slow start from Justin Hardy have a negative impact?

The truth is not every one of the Falcons’ rookies will be a hit right away. It takes time to settle into the National Football League. It’s likely a few will contribute early and continue improving through the season, while some others may take a year or two of development under Dan Quinn.

For the Falcons to click into gear and make a serious playoff push in 2015, they will need a few of the rookies to make impacts pretty early on. Realistically, one of those will need to be Beasley.

If the former Clemson star can get rolling in the NFL and crank up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it will benefit the entire defense. Pressure will be taken off the secondary as they won’t have to hold their coverages as long, and they could be more aggressive attacking the football with Beasley forcing quarterbacks into mistakes.

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If Atlanta get some serious production out of third rounder Tevin Coleman, we will see a major upgrade to the run game. This will have a similar effect on offense as Beasley would on defense. Coleman could create favorable third down distances, command more attention from defenses and also open up the play-action passing game. All of this from one player.

Atlanta doesn’t need every rookie to produce this year, and the fact is they won’t get that. What they need is the players in positions of need to step up and contribute in a big way. If I could only pick two rookies to make a big impact in 2015, it would be Beasley and Coleman for the reasons mentioned above.

With a new coaching staff in place, as well as so many areas of the team needing to improve, 2015 will be a year of transition in Atlanta. Depending on how many rookies make an impact right away, the Falcons could push for a playoff berth or miss out by a long way.

We need to be patient with Quinn and this young team. We don’t know how this season is going to go, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to find out.

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