After a tumultuous 2013 season the dust has finally settled in Atlanta and the process of healing and rebuilding is already well under way leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.
The Falcons have strengthened their defense considerably when assistant Scott Pioli, former GM of the Kansas City Chiefs, was able to pull some strings to help land the talents of DE Tyson Jackson and OG Jon Asamoah, both of whom were starters for their previous team.
Ghosts of seasons past
Atlanta has also filled in the gaps in special teams; an area that the Seattle Seahawks have proven makes a significant difference. During the upcoming 2014 draft I expect the team to continue drafting to strengthen the team’s forte, and that is offense. In order to protect their 100 million dollar asset they have already resigned Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson.
Due partly to the draft and players healing over time, the Falcons now have an overabundance of defensive ends. All in all after a person reviews the roster the Falcons have set up, on paper they should at least clinch the playoffs. However, the team and fans alike have watched what should have been a deep playoff run turn into a complete hogwash with the decimating injuries of a few key-players.
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With that sentiment in mind, the team should be prepared to face every situation with the prefix of, “What if…?” For example; what if Matt Ryan gets injured half way through the season? In my opinion the franchise as a whole has never been fully prepared with a confident backup quarterback strategy.
If the need arises
A.J. McCarron isn’t quite ready to be an NFL starter just yet, unless the team was desperate enough to think he’ll become an E.J Manuel type of player. McCarron will be third on the depth chart the next season, but after a year learning under two veteran quarterbacks in Dominique Davis and Matt Ryan; the young Alabama recruit should become a competent back-up in the Falcons arsenal. McCarron is a proven leader and doesn’t make any unnecessary decisions that will cost his team the game. Some might say he is a game manager, but in reality that’s better than most second string quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
Defensively, the Falcons have gone the route of stopping the run so far this off-season. Next year they may focus on their secondary. The league as it stands today is mostly a pass-happy league. Their linebacker corps got a major upgrade with undrafted rookies entering into the fold. Joplo Bartu has been better used for his quickness rushing off the edge or even covering passes in space.
This is where Christian Kirksey an outside linebacker from Iowa could make a difference. According to NFL scouting contributor Derek Stephens Kirksey is a, “versatile athlete who was used a lot to cover the slot in nickel coverage, and demonstrated quick hips to turn and run with receivers and tight ends stride for stride.” Immediately he would not have much of an impact besides giving Bartu a few reps to rest on the sidelines, but learning under a fairly young and tight-knit group of guys he could become the necessary bookend to Bartu in certain do-or-die pass protection situations.
With the release of veteran Thomas Decoud the Falcons have signed Dwight Lowery. The 28-year-old has six years of NFL experience and should be a viable replacement. However he missed most of the 2013 season when he was placed on injured reserve with a concussion.
Enter Deone Bucannon a strong safety from Washington State. Scouts are keen to observe his ability to deliver hard hits that forces fumbles and his ability to attack the ball as well. At the end of the day your defense can be great in the NFL but eventually a good quarterback such as: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning will find a way to prevail. That is why the Falcons need a guy that can create turnovers and create an opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be there. This young hungry athlete should be put in behind veteran William Moore while Zeke Motta would slide behind Lowery at the free safety position.
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