Team Profiles Atlanta Falcons 2015 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
Head Coach Mike Smith was fired at the end of the 2014 season, and rightfully so. That team had too much talent to go 4-12 in 2013, and 6-10 in 2014. On February 2, 2015, Dan Quinn was signed to become the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. HC Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks prior to signing with Atlanta. The Falcons finished the 2014 last in the NFL in defense, so bringing in a defensive-minded coach made total sense. Atlanta ended the regular season with a top-10 offense, but the defense struggled all year. This is Quinn’s first job as a head coach in the NFL.
2015 Team Outlook- The Falcons fly in the NFC South division, which was the worst in the NFL in 2014. To the point, the Carolina Panthers won the division without a winning record (7-8-1) This is anyone’s division to win in 2015. In 2012, the Falcons did in fact, win this division. Atlanta ended that season at 13-3. The rest of the division, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, all tied at 7-9.
2015 Fantasy Outlook-
QB- Matt Ryan is a very competent quarterback, and has finished in the top 10 of NFL QBs every year since 2010. He’s a rock solid quarterback for fantasy owners because of the stats he puts up week after week, and because he hasn’t missed a game since 2009. In 2014, QB Matty Ice ranked #7 among NFL QBs, throwing for 4694 yards and 28 TDs.
RBs- The running back situation in Atlanta is a mess, and has been. On March 14th, 2013, RB Steven Jackson signed a 3-year contract with the Falcons, who they thought, would be the answer to the departure of RB Michael Turner (Turner was the workhorse RB for Atlanta from 2008 to 2012.) RB Steven Jackson failed to live up to the Falcon’s expectations (and fantasy owners as well) in 2013 and 2014. The Falcons can save $3.75M against the cap by cutting the disappointing Jackson, who turns 32 in July. Look for the Falcons to address their need for RBs in free agency and/or in the NFL draft. The Falcons do have a young RB Devonta Freeman on their roster, and although Mike Smith didn’t trust him much, New OC Kyle Shanahan loved Freeman when evaluating him as an NFL prospect last year.2015 NFL Draft– Atlanta drafted 5’11” RB Tevin Coleman in the 3rd Round. Many think that the lead role in the backfield for Atlanta will be 2nd year RB Devonta Freeman’s to lose. I have trouble with this, as Atlanta made little effort to involve Freeman last year, despite an ineffective RB Steven Jackson getting the bulk of the carries for most of the year. It’s a situation to avoid for me, until late rounds in drafts. RBBC is my guess.
WRs- Few teams have the caliber of wide receivers that Atlanta does. WR Julio Jones might be the best wide receiver in the NFL. Jones ranked 7th best WR in the NFL in 2014, despite getting injured Week 14 vs the Packers (11 catches though, 259 and 1TD) He was forced to sit out week 15 and played hurt Weeks 16 & 17. Roddy White is Atlanta’s other star receiver, who has been with the team since being drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 draft. He ended the 2014 season with 923 yards and 7 TDs. Complimenting Jones and White are two other talented receivers, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester.
TEs- Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez called it quits in 2013, after playing with the Falcons since 2009. He of course, started his career in Kansas City, playing for the Chiefs from 1997 to 2008. Since Gonzo’s retirement, the Falcons have not had another TE step up and be a factor the offense. (CLEV TE Jordan Cameron is a free agent in 2015, and would be a fascinating fit in Atlanta.)
K- The Falcon’s placekicker in 2014 was Matt Bryant, who is a free agent in 2015. Bryant ranked 15th along NFL kickers in 2014. At 40 years of age, Bryant most likely hopes to re-sign the Falcons.
DEF- Ranked dead-last in the NFL this past season, the Falcons can’t get any worst. Their new HC was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, who won the Superbowl 48 and nearly won Superbowl 49, so the Falcons are headed in the right direction. Do not expect a big turn around in 2015, but expect them to be better.
2014 Atlanta Fantasy Surprises- Anyone and everyone could see that Steven Jackson was either unmotivated or just worn down in 2013. Regardless, Atlanta trotted Jackson out there in 2014- 189 times, for a rushing attack that ranked near the bottom. A little surprised and happy that WR Roddy White is still playing at such a high level (2014 was his 10th season playing for the Falcons.)
2015 Free Agents that Atlanta Needs to Address- RB Jacquizz Rodgers- RB Antone Smith- Tackle Gabe Carimi- OLB Osi Umenyiora
2015 NFL Draft– The early needs of Atlanta are a linebacker(s), a center, tight end and running back. The Falcons actually need multiple pass-rush additions (LBs), an upgrade at center is critical for new Falcon offense (C), there’s been no TE in Atlanta since Gonzo retired (TE) and Devonta Freeman may or may not be the answer at running back when Steven Jackson is released (RB).
Did You Know- former Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith is the brother-in-law of former NFL head coach Brian Billick?