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  1. Atlanta Falcons (Last Year: 6-10) 2015 NFL Season Preview: Veteran Additions: WR Leonard Hankerson, TE Tony Moeaki, TE Jacob Tamme, OT Tyler Polumbus, G Chris Chester, G Mike Person, DE Adrian Clayborn, DE O'Brien Schofield, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Justin Durant, CB Phillip Adams. Early Draft Picks: DE/OLB Vic Beasley, CB Jalen Collins, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Justin Hardy, DT Grady Jarrett. Falcons Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses: RB Steven Jackson, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, WR Harry Douglas, TE Bear Pascoe, OT Sam Baker, G Justin Blalock, G Gabe Carimi, DT Corey Peters, OLB Sean Weatherspoon, OLB Prince Shembo, CB Robert McClain, CB Josh Wilson, S Dwight Lowery. 2015 Atlanta Falcons Offense: The past two seasons have been very disappointing for the Falcons, but don't blame Matt Ryan. Atlanta's franchise signal-caller generated 4,694 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions in 2014, yet the team still couldn't qualify for the playoffs despite being in one of the worst divisions in NFL history. The front office simply hasn't been able to provide Ryan with enough help. There's Julio Jones, of course, but that's been about it. Jones, who just turned 26, is entering the prime of his career. He was unstoppable last year, catching 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. He's expected to see more volume in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Roddy White, meanwhile, will continue to regress. White, 34 in November, has failed to average more than 11.5 yards per reception in the past two seasons. He dealt with some injuries in 2014, but those will continue to pile up as he gets older. Ryan will need White to play well because he still inexplicably has no one else to throw to. Slot receiver Harry Douglas isn't even available anymore. It's a huge mystery as to why the front office couldn't find a better slot option or a replacement for Tony Gonzalez at tight end this offseason; after all, Maxx Williams was sitting there in the second round, available for the taking. Instead, Ryan will have to settle for throwing intermediate passes to pedestrian players like Tony Moeaki, Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo. Tight ends are normally a big factor in Shanahan's offense, so it doesn't seem like Atlanta has any sort of plan. The running back position figures to be better, at least. Steven Jackson is gone, so that's already addition by subtraction. Jacquizz Rodgers also departed, leaving disappointing rookie Devonta Freeman and breakaway-threat Antone Smith as the team's sole running backs heading into the draft. To remedy this situation, Atlanta used a third-round choice on Tevin Coleman, who was expected to go in the second frame. It's unclear if Coleman can handle a full workload, but he was exceptional for Indiana this past season, as he proved that he was capable of going the distance every single time he touched the ball. Freeman didn't show anything last year, so it should surprise no one if Coleman overtakes him as the team's starting runner. Atlanta's offensive line is also a huge question mark. The greatest areas of concern are on the left side, even though Jake Matthews is stationed there. Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, had a brutal rookie campaign. Perhaps this was because of a Lisfranc injury he sustained, but Ryan's blind-side protector still hasn't resumed practicing and might not be ready for the season opener. Meanwhile, with Justin Blalock gone, the recently signed Chris Chester is expected to start at guard, though that's not a given. The 32-year-old Chester has been a pedestrian blocker over the past few years. Two of the other three starters up front are unknowns, with the lone exception being right guard Jon Asamoah. Center Joe Hawley is coming off a torn ACL, though he's expected to be ready for training camp. Right tackle Ryan Schraeder performed well last season, but he is a former undrafted free agent, so given the small sample size, there's a chance his play could've been a mirage. 2015 Atlanta Falcons Defense: Rather than adding more offensive weapons or improving Matt Ryan's blocking, the Falcons spent the majority of their resources bolstering their defense. It's hard to blame the front office for doing this, given that the "stop" unit surrendered 26.1 points per game in 2014, including 34 to the Panthers in a must-win for the divisional crown in Week 17. The first two draft picks were defensive players. The No. 8 overall choice was used on a pass-rusher who could fit new head coach Dan Quinn's system perfectly. That would be Vic Beasley, who could've easily gone in the top five without any complaints. Beasley was a terror for Clemson this past season, so he, along with free-agent acquisitions Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield should be able to help a pass rush that has been lacking for years. The second draft choice was used on tall cornerback Jalen Collins. Atlanta didn't have a huge need for the corner position, but Collins could offer an upgrade over the mediocre Robert Alford. The winner of that training camp battle will start across from Desmond Trufant, who is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. If Alford loses the job, perhaps he can take over the nickel spot, which was occupied by the departed Robert McClain. Rounding out the secondary are safeties Dezmen Southward and William Moore. This is a position that should have been upgraded this past offseason. Moore missed nine games in 2014 because of a shoulder injury, while Southward, a 2014 third-rounder, struggled in brief action as a rookie. No potential improvements are available, unless seventh-round rookie Akeem King unexpectedly steps up. One other area that Atlanta tried to bolster this offseason was the linebacking corps. They let go of the oft-injured Sean Weatherspoon and brought in Brooks Reed as a potential upgrade. Reed was miscast as a rush linebacker in Houston's defense; he doesn't get after the quarterback well, but he excels in other departments, such as covering and stopping the run. Justin Durant was also signed; he played well last year for the Cowboys before tearing his bicep. Durant can play all three linebacker spots, but he's missed 16 games over the past couple of seasons. He and Reed will sandwich Paul Worrilow, who needs to improve his game after missing countless tackles in 2014. The defensive line is basically the same, with Tyson Jackson, Jonathan Babineaux and Paul Soliai returning as starters. Babineaux was the best of the bunch this past season, offering an interior pass rush, though he wasn't very good in run support. The Falcons have Soliai to handle the run, while Jackson is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Meanwhile, 2014 second-rounder Ra'Shede Hageman will fight for playing time. The Minnesota product struggled as a rookie, but perhaps his sophomore campaign will be better. 2015 Atlanta Falcons Schedule and Intangibles: In five seasons, Matt Ryan is 40-17 in the Georgia Dome. However, the Falcons have been 6-10 at home over the past two seasons, so perhaps the magic has worn off. The Falcons did pretty well on special teams, thanks to Devin Hester. The former Bear took a return to the house and helped the team outgain the opposition on both punts and kickoffs. Matt Bryant signed a 3-year, $8.5 million contract this offseason, which was well deserved. Bryant has been incredibly clutch over the years, and he was 29-of-32 in 2014, including an impressive 7-of-10 from 50-plus. Matt Bosher ranked 11th in net average in 2012, but improved, finishing sixth in both 2013 and 2014. He also did a good job of placing punts inside the 20. Atlanta doesn't have a very difficult schedule. As of this writing, the team is a Vegas underdog against the Eagles (home), Giants (road), Cowboys (road), Saints (road), 49ers (road), Colts (home) and Panthers (road). 2015 Atlanta Falcons Rookies: Go here for the Falcons Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter. 2015 Atlanta Falcons Analysis: The Falcons should be better than they were in 2014, when they went 6-10. However, it doesn't appear as though they've made enough improvements to distance themselves from the pack in the NFC South. A divisional victory is still possible, but it appears as though Atlanta will finish at .500, or somewhere close to it. Projection: 8-8 (3rd in NFC South) Walter has begun posting his season previews and he's now up to the NFC South. It's Walter so take it with a grain of salt, and keep in mind that it isn't just one guy's opinion. It's something to talk about at very least though. I've posted everything that I can. I can't transplant his star ratings, so follow the link to see those. Almost all of the NFC South is up now as well, except Tampa, who will probably be added early Monday morning. http://walterfootball.com/offseason2015atl.php
  2. During the first half of the 2014 college football season, West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White dominated the competition. He was ripping off huge yardage and catch totals on a weekly basis, and teams were completely incapable of taking him out of the game. That changed when he went up against TCU cornerback Kevin White. While the Horned Frogs sent some safety help over the top with bracket coverage, TCU's White had a superb game going against one of the best receivers in college football; he held the Mountaineer play-maker had only three receptions for 28 yards. In 2014, the senior cornerback totaled 51 tackles with two interceptions and 11 passes broken up. He finished the year with a decent performance at the Senior Bowl, yet was not chosen in the 2015 NFL Draft. Sources say there were a few reasons why White went undrafted. For one, the 5-foot-9, 183-pounder is undersized and could be limited to slot-cornerback duties in the NFL. The same sources also said that White's tape and skill set were just average. Teams felt that, by far, his best game was against West Virginia and his other performances weren't of that caliber. Thus, teams didn't feel compelled to select White. After going undrafted, Carter signed with the Atlanta Falcons. That was a good choice by White and his agent. Falcons defensive backs coach Raheem Morris has had a long history of giving late-round and undrafted free agent cornerbacks a real shot to make the roster and receive playing time. Kyle Arrington, E.J. Biggers and Elbert Mack are a few examples. The Falcons also have an open competition for their fourth and fifth cornerback spots; the top three are set with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Jalen Collins. After those three, White should have a fair shot to win one of two roster spots. With a new coaching staff, White is landing in Atlanta at a good time, and it wouldn't be surprising if he sticks on the roster. http://walterfootball.com/wu2015kwhite.php
  3. Last year, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Throughout the lead-up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Indiana running back Tevin Coleman was considered to be a likely second-round pick. For the Hoosiers, Coleman was a big-play running back who was a threat to break off a long run on any carry. His 7.5-yard-per-carry average was indicative of that as he totaled 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Coleman is put together well to go along with his deep speed. With his size, speed and production, many thought that Coleman had a shot at being the third running back taken and an early second-rounder. However, three running backs went ahead of Coleman in the second round, and he slipped to Round 3 before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. Sources with teams said that Coleman fell in the 2015 NFL Draft because of a health issue. Teams had concerns about Coleman's ability to be an every-down back because of a medical condition that impacts his stamina. They thought that he may not hold up as an every-down starter, and that hurt their view him as a first- or second-round pick. Similar to former Steeler Ryan Clark, some teams also thought that Coleman may not be able to play in Denver because of how the high altitude impacts his illness. Coleman ended up going in the third round to the Atlanta Falcons, which is a great landing spot for him. The Falcons moved on from veteran Steven Jackson and need a long-term starter. They selected Devonta Freeman in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he could form a nice tandem with Coleman. Freeman can take on the receiving and third-down duties with Coleman being the featured runner on first and second down. That would help Coleman's stamina issue and give him time to develop blitz-protection skills. In Atlanta, Coleman looks like future starter and the engine of the Falcons' running game. http://walterfootball.com/ws2015tcoleman.php
  4. Something to talk about besides just this year's draft. Keep in mind that this is purely subjective on his part, but also feel free to input your own choice. I'll only paste his Falcons choice, and you can go to the link to check the rest. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan - 3rd-Overall Pick, 2008 The Falcons don't have a rich draft history, and this came down to Jamal Anderson and Deion Sanders to go with Ryan. However, Sanders played great years in San Francisco and Dallas, while Anderson had a brilliant season but didn't produce the amount of playoff appearances that Ryan has. The greatest stretch of consistent winning in franchise history has come under Ryan. Matty Ice has guided the Falcons to four playoff appearances, and they came insanely close to the Super Bowl in 2012. Ryan has produced victories despite not always having a very good offensive line, running game or defense. It looks very likely that Ryan will go down as the best player in Falcons history. http://walterfootball.com/greatestpicks.php
  5. Atlanta Falcons: The feeling from the combine says the Atlanta Falcons have a 50/50 chance of re-signing starting center Joe Hawley.
  6. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama Height: 6-4. Weight: 320. Projected 40 Time: 5.35. Projected Round (2013): 2-3. 5/15/12: The "tattooed monster from down under" has some shear power and quickness. The Australian didn't start playing football until he was 15 years old. He played a couple seasons of community college before breaking into the lineup as a junior for Alabama. In 2011, he had 24 tackles with four tackles for a loss and half a sack. He was a starting five-technique defensive end and moved inside to tackle as part of a four-man front in pass rushing situations. Williams should take on a prominent role in the Alabama defense after the Crimson Tide lost a number of players to the NFL. Jonathan Jenkins*, DT, Georgia Height: 6-3. Weight: 351. Projected 40 Time: 5.55. Projected Round (2013): 2-3. 5/15/12: The junior college product Jenkins showed off massive size with some surprising athleticism in his debut for the Bulldogs. In his junior season, Jenkins had 28 with six tackles for a loss and three sacks. He is a massive load at the line of scrimmage. He is a natural fit as a zero-technique nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. It helps that he already plays that position for Georgia. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina Height: 6-3. Weight: 320. Projected 40 Time: 5.19. Projected Round (2013): 2-3. 5/15/12: The junior-college transfer benefited from some good talent around him in Tydreke Powell, Quinton Coples and Kareem Martin. Williams had 54 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception and a forced fumble this season. He is a specimen with a nice combination of size and speed. Williams needs more development but is an interesting prospect. He probably should stay for his senior season. Mister Cobble*, NT, Kentucky Height: 6-0. Weight: 332. Projected 40 Time: 5.35. Projected Round (2013): 4-5. 5/15/12: The redshirt sophomore Cobble broke out late in 2011 with some impressive games. He finished the season with 33 tackles, three tackles for a loss and one sack. Cobble is quick and powerful. He has good closing speed and is a bowling ball going up the middle of an offensive line. Cobble was a standout in two good defensive efforts for Kentucky in their final two games, against Georgia and Tennessee. He totaled six tackles with two tackles for a loss and a sack in those contests These are some pretty big boys. Right now none of them are projected to go in the first round but I think they would be some guys to watch this year. I really want the falcons to have big guy in the middle. As a UGA fan I like John Jenkins the most.
  7. Easy Change Could Improve Falcons' Pass Rush Published July 22, 2012 By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell One of the biggest weakness for the Atlanta Falcons during the 2011 season was a lack of pass rush. The Falcons switched defensive coordinators from Brian VanGorder to Mike Nolan and a simple scheme change could make Atlanta's pass rush all the more potent. ESPN's NFC South expert Pat Yasinskas points out that the Falcons had star pass rushing defensive end John Abraham drop into pass coverage more than any defensive linemen in the NFL. Despite that mind-boggling strategy, Abraham totaled 9.5 sacks in the regular season with four forced fumbles. He recorded another sack in the Falcons playoff loss to the Giants. In 2010, Abraham had 13 sacks and that was the sixth time in his career he recorded double digit sacks. The Falcons badly need Abraham to get after the quarterback in 2012. They were unable to add a pass rusher via free agency or a high draft pick. If Nolan protects Abraham by rotating him and using him primarily as a pass rusher, Abraham could still produce for Atlanta at the ripe age of 34. As Yasinskas points out, from day one they can bolster their pass rush by not following VanGorder's tendency to remove their most dangerous defender by dropping him into coverage. http://walterfootball.com/nfldraftrumormill.php
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