ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 27: Harry Douglas #83 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with a catch for a touchdown against Asher Allen #21 of the Minnesota Vikings at the Georgia Dome on November 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The talk of a 2012 breakout player for the Falcons is underway, so I figured I'd jump in with my own opinion. Julio and 'Spoon were two guys who exploded onto the scene last year. Who can we expect to really step up this time around?
Knox Bardeen identified a few potential breakout candidates recently. Quizz, Ray Edwards, 'Spoon, El Sid and Julio were all on his watch list. The Famous Dave Choate also noted that Quizz was Pat Yasinskas' pick to be the NFC South breakout player of 2012.
It appears we have a handful of guys to pick from. Which player, though, is really destined to receive the title of Falcons Breakout Player of the Year? Keep in mind that award doesn't officially exist.
Let's start by examining the guys already named. Quizz seems to be a favorite in everyone's mind because of his versatility. We know Dirk Koetter loves the screen game, an area the 5-foot-6, 196 pound running back can thrive in. If the Falcons give him enough playing time, Quizz can make a huge impact.
'Spoon is now a leader of the defense. He was a monster in 2011, so I'm not sure he can even be considered here. But, as Knox notes, he'll be calling the plays, seeing more action on third-down situations and basically causing havoc wherever he can. It's scary to think we haven't even seen the best of him.
Speaking of scary, Julio caught 54 balls for 959 yards and eight touchdowns in just 13 games during his rookie campaign. If not for a nagging hamstring issue, who knows how good he could have been?
He'll have a full offseason to train and a new vertical passing scheme to work with. This could be a breakout year coming off of a breakout year for Jones.
Edwards and Sidbury need to break out in 2012 for the sake of Atlanta's pass rush. El Sid was on the field for 207 pass-rush snaps last year, in comparison to Edwards' 661 (stats given from Knox), but Sidbury still managed a half sack more than Edwards. I think we'd all welcome a huge increase in production from either of the two in Mike Nolan's new system.
Now that I've gone over the aforementioned list of candidates, allow me to give two of my own.
1) Dunta Robinson: He still has the big contract, but his spotlight has diminished a bit. Asantae Samuel will push Dunta to the inside, a move the he might have needed.
Robinson hasn't really lived up to everyone's expectations. Still, he's a talented, physical DB who should win a lot of his matchups now. I think he has something to prove with his job being taken right away by a new guy. Hopefully this will inspire Dunta to bring his A-game every week.
2) Harry Douglas: HD was somewhat of a victim in Mike Mularkey's offense. We've seen what he can do when they consistently utilize him in the passing game (see Week 10 of 2011). Julio and Roddy receive a ton of attention from opposing defenses, and with Tony G back for another year, someone has to be open, right? Koetter's new offense should allow Douglas to see more action, and I think he can handle it.
I'm not necessarily making a pick at this point, but these are the two guys (aside from Quizz) I think should be kept on breakout watch. Who do you think will be the breakout player of 2012?