As the regular season nears, we’re counting down the 20 most important players on the Atlanta Falcons roster. At No. 15 is rookie tight end Austin Hooper.
Ever since Tony Gonzalez walked away from the game, the Atlanta Falcons offense has been crying out for a big target who can attack the middle of the field.
Jacob Tamme showed the occasional flash of chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan, but his highlights were few and far between. The Levine Toilolo era is all but over on offense, and the Falcons now turn to rookie Austin Hooper to give the offense a new dimension.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan already has an elite wide receiver to work with in Julio Jones, and Jones will now be complemented by free agent acquisition Mohamed Sanu and second-year Justin Hardy.
Running back Devonta Freeman broke out in a big way last year, and the Falcons are still hoping second-year Tevin Coleman can ensure there is a more even split of touches between the two backs.
The offensive line has seen significant improvements under the current coaching regime, and new center Alex Mack should help plug up a glaring weakness of a year ago.
All that leaves is the tight end position, another weakness on the Falcons offense last season. The hope is Hooper can be a game-changer as a pass catcher. If he can live up to his potential, stretch defenses vertically and give Ryan a reliable weapon in the middle of the field, the passing game could be set for significant improvements.
Pairing a top wide receiver with a talented tight end can work wonders for an offense. The addition of Tyler Eifert was huge for the Bengals, a team that already boasted superstar ability at receiver in A.J. Green.
The Falcons hope Hooper can be their own Eifert.
The 6-foot-4, 254-pounder can be a difference maker on offense if all goes to plan, and for that reason he is one of the most important players on the roster.