Atlanta Falcons have plenty to build on in 2016


The Atlanta Falcons have plenty to build on in 2016, despite the up-and-down season.

It’s been a roller coaster season for the Atlanta Falcons, who saw a 5-0 start fade into an embarrassing 6-7 record entering their Week 15 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What Sunday’s victory over the Jaguars showed us, however, is this team has plenty to build on moving forward.

This was always going to be a transitional season, a work in progress. Dan Quinn was never going to turn the No. 32 defense into world-beaters in such a short period of time, but he has helped improve the unit in many ways, quicker than it may have seemed possible.

If the Falcons’ wins and losses had been spread over the season and not bunched up in such dramatic fashion, it would look like a season of progress. Hey, if the Falcons had started 0-5 and gone 7-2 since, it would be the season Quinn was able to turn it around and make the team competitive.

As it happened, the fast start bloated expectations when in reality, the Falcons weren’t ready to be grouped among the NFC’s best. Not yet, anyway.

But what we have seen is improvements on defense, better play along the offensive line and at last, a run game they can lean on. Is there still a lot of room for improvement? Absolutely, but compare these three areas to 12 months ago and the difference is staggering.

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Now, there is of course the small issue of the sputtering offense, which finally looked more itself against a poor Jaguars defense on Sunday. Again, it’s a work in progress. Entering 2016, Quinn will have Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan (yes, Matt Ryan) at his disposal and an entire offseason to add more playmakers, either via free agency or the draft.

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And let’s not forget Tevin Coleman and Justin Hardy, two rookies who have flashed promise in their limited body of work this year. Next September, both players will have a year of NFL experience under their belts and a full offseason to continue their development.

Defensively, expect some more additions in the offseason. You can bet Quinn will aggressively address the pass rush, and this will hold the key to a defense with its arrow pointing firmly upward.

The 2015 season was never going to be a home run for the Atlanta Falcons. Despite the midseason struggles, there has been a lot to like, and the Falcons have finally surpassed their 2014 win total of six.

In 2016, the Falcons will be ready to take another giant leap forward.