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Training camp tour stop: Falcons


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Training camp tour stop: Falcons

By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports

Fantasy thoughts: Owners should ask themselves this: What impact will rookie WR Julio Jones(notes) have on Atlanta’s offense?

Obviously, the chief beneficiary will be QB Matt Ryan(notes), although it’s hard to see Ryan making a huge jump from the 28 TD passes he threw last season.

WR Roddy White(notes), who had 115 catches, 1,389 yards and 10 TDs could see a slight decline in receptions, so those of you in PPR leagues should react accordingly. However, having Jones on the other side could simply mean White will average more yards per catch. White had a career-low 12.1 yards per catch last season as defenses rolled coverage his way. White didn’t have a catch of longer than 50 yards, a first in his six seasons.

The guy who could get the most help is RB Michael Turner(notes), who gained 1,371 yards and scored 12 TDs last season. Opponents won’t be able to crowd the line as much against Atlanta, so Turner figures to get more shots. While he has taken a beating in his three seasons in Atlanta, Turner still has a good season or two left on his sturdy body.

As for Jones, expect him to get every one of the 41 passes that went toward Michael Jenkins(notes) last season. Jenkins turned those catches into only 505 yards and 2 TDs. Despite great physical skills, Jenkins wasn’t a complete receiver. He didn’t use his body particularly well in traffic and was best suited for catching passes along the sideline as he ran out of bounds.

If Jones gets 45 to 50 catches for 750 to 800 yards and 6 TDs, the Falcons will be happy with that. For fantasy purposes, Jones figures to be a solid No. 3 receiver (take him ahead of any other rookie out there) this season. If you’re in the rare football keeper league, rate Jones a little higher because he’s got serious upside. Some people have called him a Terrell Owens(notes)-type player without the attitude.

Line still in work: Anyone who remembers the playoff loss to Green Bay knows that the Falcons’ pass rush wasn’t close to good enough last season. To that end, the team signed Ray Edwards(notes) as a free agent. Edwards has 16.5 sacks in the past two seasons, making him one of the more productive pass rushers from the left side. Still, Edwards is more a try-hard guy than an explosive athlete. As he was with Jared Allen(notes) in Minnesota, he will be a nice complementary rusher to John Abraham(notes).

The Falcons also need to get more pass rush from the combination of DTs Jonathan Babineaux(notes), Peria Jerry(notes) and Corey Peters(notes).

The pass rush from the front four is particularly important because the Falcons don’t have a lot of blitzing skill from their linebackers. They have solid players there with the likes of Curtis Lofton(notes) and Sean Weatherspoon(notes), but they’re more situational guys. Put that together with an undersized group of cornerbacks (Dunta Robinson(notes), Brent Grimes(notes) and Christopher Owens(notes) are all 5-foot-10 or shorter) and you have to put a premium on getting the quarterback on the ground more often.

The Falcons don’t do a lot to beat themselves in situational football, but they also don’t change the game much with overwhelming physical play.


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