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A 2012 Glimpse At Our <Age:25 Players


Ewok
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Curtis Lofton is a 25-year-old player who is on the verge of being a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the National Football League. He would be the starting middle linebacker for the Falcons this year if he decided to come back. However, even without him, Atlanta has tons of talented young players.

We'll go over the Falcons' players who are 25 or younger in three main groups. The Falcons have five starters out of 24 who are 25 or younger. There are also 12 key contributors who are also 25 or younger, while the draft will only bring another five guys who are in this under-25 range.

WR Julio Jones - 23

Julio Jones is a great player and a good long-term fit as the No. 1 option in the Falcons offense. Jones will be the No. 2 option for now and should be even better in the new offense that is being run by Dirk Koetter.

Verdict: Long-term starter for the Falcons and second option in the passing game for the next few years.

Expectations: 65 catches, 1100 yards, 10 TD, possible Pro Bowl nod.

C/RG Joe Hawley - 23

Joe Hawley was a big reason for the Falcons' pass blocking turnaround in the second half of the season. He has a Todd McClure quality to him as an undersized center (6'3", 302 lbs), with a nasty attitude and some toughness.

McClure unfortunately might not be back, but if he is, expect Hawley to end up playing right guard for a year and then center afterwards.

Verdict: Long-term starter at center and leader of the offensive line.

Expectations: Starting all 16 games this year regardless of position, whether it's RG or C.

DT Corey Peters - 23

Peters has started the last two years for pretty much every game. He has been doing extremely well for the Falcons against the run and has started to develop as a pass-rusher as well. He also has good size for the middle of the 4-3 the team runs at 6'3", 305 lbs.

Verdict: Starting nose tackle

Expectations: 30 tackles, 4.0 sacks, four pass deflections

LB Sean Weatherspoon - 24

The 2010 first-rounder had an average rookie year but broke out as a playmaker in 2011 with over 100 tackles, four sacks and eight pass deflections. "Spoon," as everyone calls him, is one of the Falcons' best defenders and is an impact player on the defense.

Verdict: Starter for 2012 and beyond. Should be a cornerstone of the defense.

Expectations: With more blitz packages in Nolan's defense, expect Weatherspoon to get more sacks and interceptions.

P Matt Bosher - 24

He started out last season as an awful punter with a 38.3 yards per punt average (near last in the league). But something clicked after the bye week, and his average punt the last six games went to 49.9 yards, which would have been good enough to place third in the league.

Verdict: Starting another 16 games as punter and kickoff specialist for the Falcons.

Expectations: Bosher went from "should be cut" to "the Basher" halfway through last year. He should average over 46 yards per punt.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers - 22

Jacquizz Rodgers is a third-down back who can run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield. Rodgers has a Darren Sproles quality to him and is the perfect candidates for more screens.

Verdict: Third-down back in 2012.

Expectations: 60 carries for 275 yards and two TDs, 40 catches for 450 yards and two TDs.

TE Michael Palmer - 24

Palmer is a consistently improving player. He's primarily a blocker and fits in with the Falcons well. The Clemson grad is a third-year player who has slowly but surely been playing more and more of a role in the offense.

Verdict: Third TE on the depth chart and primary blocking TE, but should still get some catches

Expectations: 15 catches for 150 yards and two TDs.

OL Garrett Reynolds - 24

Garrett Reynolds was a weak pass-blocker in 2011, which led to his benching later in the year. As a starter he allowed 13 combined pressures in just over 500 snaps: three sacks, four hits and six pressures.

Verdict: Backup at OG and RT in 2012.

Expectations: Will play a lot of special teams and is a quality backup as long as he doesn't have to play a lot of snaps.

OG Mike Johnson - 24

Johnson played starting left guard and right tackle at the college level and could end up as the right guard starter this year. He's quick for a zone scheme and powerful size at 6'5", 312 lbs. Johnson is at worst a depth player and can play the RT or the RG role.

Verdict: Johnson should compete for the starting role at right guard but worst case scenario is a depth player at guard.

Expectations: Depth player, but if he wins the starting role, he should fulfill his draft status as a third-round pick.

DT Vance Walker - 24

Vance Walker has been a good rotational fit for the defense the past three years. He is a run stopper mainly, but he provides good push in the middle and got 2.0 sacks in the 2011 season.

Verdict: Rotational guy for the Falcons at DT with more penetration under Nolan.

Expectations: 15-20 tackles, two-to-three sacks

DE Cliff Matthews - 22

Matthews is a good depth defensive end but didn't play at all in 2011. He won't see action unless there is injury.

Verdict: Backup and fifth DE in 2012

Expectations: Will be fifth best player in the DE rotation in 2012, should be on 53-man roster

LB Akeem Dent - 24

The 24-year-old is last year's third-round pick. His coverage skills are right around what Lofton's are, but he has an overall talent level good enough to win the starting MLB job. Dent winning the job could be the best situation for the Falcons.

Verdict: Possible starting MLB and good two-down linebacker.

Expectations: If Curtis Lofton doesn't come back, Akeem Dent could end up being the starting middle linebacker and getting around 100 tackles and one-to-two sacks. But if he's the backup, expect a similar year to this past one.

LB Spencer Adkins - 24

Adkins, age 24, is already heading into his fourth year, and his three years as a reserve has been very good. He's one of the top special teamers on the Falcons for three years now.

Verdict: Reserve and special teamer

Expectations: Special-teams starter getting around 12-15 tackles in 2012.

CB Dominique Franks - 24

Mike Nolan loves using bigger nickel corners like what Franks could do. He's 6'0", 197 lbs, and is an instinctual ball-hawk who is a solid tackler and makes plays on the ball.

Verdict: Starting nickel corner in 2012

Expectations: Two-to-three interceptions, five-to-10 pass deflections and over 30 tackles

CB Christopher Owens - 25

Owens was a disappointment in the defense under Brian Van Gorder. Owens will be a better fit with Nolan's new man coverage schemes. He is also a good blitzer and could win the nickel

Verdict: Should be the fourth-best corner on the team and a special teamer

Expectations: Moving from the nickel to the fourth corner will be beneficial to the team. Should be a sack specialist from the secondary and could surprise in 2012 at corner.

Edited by EwokHellKite
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