The Falcons looked at the landscape of the NFL a few years back and realized something: Teams that could pass the ball effectively and stop the pass were having a ton of success.
Ever since then, the team has been trying to master that trend. They came close to doing so in 2012, coming just a couple of plays away from the Super Bowl. Due to injuries and simple ineffectiveness, 2013 has been a year that has seemingly repudiated that strategy.
Ultimately, I don't know if the Falcons' high-flying offense and solid secondary was going to be enough to win them a Super Bowl. With Tony Gonzalez retiring, Roddy White aging and some middling safety play this season, it's clear the Falcons either have to double down with new options in the passing game or change course.
I'll advocate the latter approach. The Falcons would be able to do terrific things if Matt Ryan had an effective offensive line in front of him and a terrific defense to stifle opposing offenses. People talk about Ryan not being able to win with elite receivers, but judging by the ease with which he's made connections with Darius Johnson and Harry Douglas, I'd have to disagree. Ryan is a quarterback who needs an effective line to win games alongside a handful of quality options. If the Falcons can actually run the ball next year—again, a good line helps with that—and keep Ryan upright, I expect you'll see him return to the form he flashed in 2012.
Picture this football team minus Tony Gonzalez, plus a couple of competent linemen and someone with the talent of a Jadaveon Clowney or Anthony Barr. It's not immediately excellent, necessarily, but it would the kind of improvement that could make a major difference. This team should—and I expect will—make the lines the top priority going forward.
There has been a lot of smoke and noise around the Falcons needing multiple years to return to contention. That may well be true. Yet I do believe that a couple of smart signings on the offensive line in free agency, a couple of high-round draft picks sunk into the defensive line and re-signing a couple of core guys (Corey Peters comes to mind) will pay more immediate dividends. I remain ever hopeful.
Your thoughts on the Falcons' and their lines?