In order for the Atlanta Falcons to become a better team in 2016, they need improvements in three major areas.
The 2015 Atlanta Falcons had few bright moments. Yes, they beat the strong Carolina Panthers in exciting fashion, Julio Jones had a career year with All-Pro honors, and players like Devonta Freeman and Patrick DiMarco had breakout seasons, but anyone who watched a Falcons game could see that all was not well in Atlanta.
The team lost games they had chances to win, the offense sputtered in the red-zone, and opposing receivers tore the middle of the defense to shreds.
There must be major improvements on both sides of the ball for the team to move forward and have a chance at competing in the playoffs.
Whether it was James Stone snapping the football into his “jockstrap area” or Mike Person snapping it over the head of Matt Ryan, the play at center left much to be desired. Now, both Person and Stone naturally play offensive tackle and the pair suffered various injuries over the course of the season, so maybe the hiccups at center were warranted.
However, this issue was addressed in free agency with the signing of three-time Pro Bowler Alex Mack. Mack also has experience in the zone-blocking scheme as he played under Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland during the 2014 season. The offense should run much smoother with a rock solid center snapping the ball to Matt Ryan, and hopefully the unfortunate turnovers will cease.
2. Pass rush
When Week 17 was in the books and all the stats were added up, the defensive statistics were not kind to Atlanta. The Falcons placed last in total sacks with just 19. Letting opposing quarterbacks have all day to dance around in the pocket will lead to either receivers eventually getting open or the quarterback using his legs to move down the field.
Coach Dan Quinn has always led defenses that could hit the quarterback, he and the defensive staff must make improvements in the linebacker corps and defensive line in order to put pressure on opposing offenses.
The Falcons have a talented secondary with Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant leading the group, it’s about time they get some support from the front seven.
3. Wide receiver
Wait, the Falcons have Julio Jones, arguably the best receiving threat in the game today, why is wide receiver something that needs to improve? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Jones, without question, is the man. He can go deep, he can take screen and short passes the distance, and he can win almost any one-on-one match up. However, he can’t do it alone. Jones accounted for 1871 yards of the total 4591 passing yards; he was over a third of the passing game.
Other receivers must step up to take the pressure off of Jones, allowing the offense to be more dynamic. Whether Justin Hardy becomes a threat out of the slot or Mohamed Sanu plays the part of a significant No. 2 doesn’t matter, Jones just can’t be Ryan’s first read every play.
So, if Alex Mack plays as he’s expected to, Vic Beasley and the rest of the front seven put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and another receiving threat steps up, Atlanta will be a totally different and more capable team. Hopefully those improvements translate to improvements in the win column as well.