The last three years have been heartbreaking for the Atlanta Falcons. A terrible Superbowl loss, a devastating playoff loss, and an injury-plagued 2018. However, the stars are realigning for Atlanta. A repaired offensive line, the return of significant play-makers and a large coaching shift has got Falcons fans giddy. With speedy young players and fearsome veterans, can Atlanta finally get their first Lombardi trophy? Or will they falter yet again? Let’s take a preview at what to expect from the Falcons this year.
Hands, Speed and Julio Jones
One of the biggest driving factors of the Atlanta Falcons is the Hydra monster they have at wide receiver. Rookie sensation Calvin Ridley will look to build off his spectacular 64 receptions for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. His impressive speed and route running combination will make him very hard to defend one on one. Which is the situation he’ll mostly find himself in since Julio Jones is the guy defenses will need to key in on. His league-leading 1677 yards is enough to tell you that no matter how much attention you pay to him, he is going to get the ball.
Now that we have the two big hitters covered, we move on to possibly the most reliable hands the Falcons have, Mohamed Sanu. While he’s not a stat sheet stuffer, his reliable route running and insane catching skills make him a major threat in any one on one situation. Often leading to easy first downs. In all, the big 3 the Falcons have at wideout is very tough for any defense to diagnose and stop, becoming even impossible to do at times.
Of course, when you cut the head off one Hydra head, two more grow. You take away any one of the guys above, look no further than Austin Hooper. His 71 receptions and 660 yards earned him a Pro Bowl nod, the first of his career. The Falcons also have plenty of depth at wideout, with youngsters Justin Hardy and Russell Gage providing great depth. All in all the Falcons receiving core is going to be the engine that guides Atlanta to any sort of success in 2019.
The Rebuilt Trenches
Matty Ice is coming off a year where he rivalled his numbers he had when he won MVP. He did all he could in hopes of driving the Atlanta Falcons into the playoffs. However, sitting behind an O-line where he was sacked 42 freaking times is unbearable. The Falcons’ free-agent additions of Jamon Brown and James Carpenter will hopefully help make that line more stable. Although, for the future, the Falcons hope first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary will give Matt Ryan the protection he needs until he retires. Of course, having Alex Mack and Jake Matthews doesn’t hurt either. Atlanta’s biggest issue on offense has hopefully been solved for the many years to come. This will provide the Falcons with the boost they need to hopefully make a run at the Super Bowl.
Returning Superstars and Diamonds in the Rough
The biggest downfall of the Falcons 2018 season was the number of key injuries they sustained. Keanu Neal lost his season to an ACL tear. Deion Jones missed substantial time with a foot injury. Ricardo Allen also lost his season to an Achilles tear. Devonta Freeman missed almost the whole year with a number of injuries. It’s hard to win when you’re missing so many talented players. Getting Neal and Allen back will really help secure a battered secondary. Having Debo captain the defense for the whole year will be huge for Atlanta as he is their best tackler. Finally, reviving the run game with Devonta Freeman will really bring an energy that Atlanta clearly lacked last season.
However, in light of these injuries, Atlanta was able to find many gems on their team. Second-year safety Damonte Kazee really balled out, tying the league lead in interceptions with eight. Ito Smith helped a stagnant ground game find it’s feet before he lost the end of his season to an injury. 2018 sixth-round pick Foyesade Oluokon led the team in total tackles. In light of a bad season, the Falcons really found some diamonds hidden on their team. This will give them a massive boost in case any more injuries occur in 2019 which could make the difference between football or golfing come January.
Despite the last few years being soul-crushing to every Falcons fan, there is hope this season. A hope the Falcons haven’t had in many years. Everything is finally coming into place for this team that has worked so hard to fight back from a crushing Super Bowl defeat three years ago. The coaching staff is made up with lots of former head coaches, like an all star staff of coaches. The team is healthy, reloaded and ready to punch it into gear for this season. Every key issue has been addressed to the best of their ability. Every injury is healed and every fan is HYPED for this year. The potential is there, it now comes down to execution and consistency. Here is my predictions for the Falcons season.
Julio Jones breaks the receiving yardage for a single season.
Devonta Freeman wins Comeback Player of the Year
The Atlanta Falcons win Super Bowl 54
With the number of weapons on Atlanta’s offense, keying in on only Julio will be impossible. Which will lead to his biggest year yet. In fact, the biggest year any receiver has ever had ever. While Julio might not break 3000 yards like he said he might, breaking the record of most yards in a season seems like the logical goal for Julio.
Prior to his injury, Devonta Freeman had the most scrimmage yards out of any player in the last three years. His remarkable mix of rushing, catching, speed and power simply makes Freeman impossible to stop. He will put on a show in 2019 and finish the year with the Comeback Player of the Year Trophy.
While there is a lot of amazing teams in the NFL, if the Falcons can play as good as they did back in 2016, there is no way this team won’t at least make it back to the Super Bowl, if not win it. Of course, if the Falcons play inconsistent like they did the last two years or succumb to injuries again, they will most likely falter. I truly believe the Atlanta Falcons will have their greatest season to date in 2019.
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