USA TODAY Sports
The Falcoholic picks seven players who need big years to help the Falcons reach the 2014 Super Bowl.
I want a Super Bowl win for our Atlanta Falcons. I want it so bad I can taste it, and it tastes a lot like victory, which in turn tastes like a hangar steak cooked in butter and doused in excellent scotch. You can see why I want it.
To get there, though, we're going to need players and coaches to continue to grow and step up. We're going to need their finest efforts, improvement across the board and new players in addition to the general level of excellence the Falcons have maintained in recent years.
They're also going to need Falcons to fill the seven roles I'm about to lay out for your perusing. Fill these roles, I'd argue, and you're on your way already.
Let's talk about 'em.
The Enforcer- Sean Weatherspoon
'Spoon has all the talent in the world, and brings an underrated game to the table. He's supremely athletic, has a knack for causing or assisting on turnovers and does well in coverage. What he doesn't always bring to the table is the consistent tackling, the kind of hits that give running backs pause, the stops that the very best linebackers in the game consistently bring to the table. 'Spoon is on the doorstep, but for the Falcons to take the next step as a defense, he'll have to improve his tackling and run-stopping.
The Brain- Mike Nolan
Mike Nolan did an excellent job in 2012 of hiding his defense's weaknesses, which were very real. This was a team that struggled to tackle, struggled to stop the run, were vulnerable to exploitation by elite tight ends and generally relied too heavily on turnovers. For all that, it was good enough to get them to the NFC Conference Championship.
With new pieces to be added in 2013, the Falcons need Nolan to put together a season full of braintornados to help Atlanta wreak havoc on the rest of the NFL. He's an easy choice for this one.
The Technician- Roddy White
Nobody does the little things all wide receivers should do better than Roddy. His route running, his attention to detail, and his awareness of where his body is at all times are truly elite. With Tony Gonzalez potentially moving on, the Falcons will need Roddy even more in 2013.
The Loose Cannon- Kroy Biermann
This isn't based on personality. Biermann's about as buttoned-up an athlete in public as you could expect to find. No, this is about utility, and how Biermann is used to rush the passer, drop back in coverage, help out in the run, spy on the quarterback and maybe handle a few kickoffs. Opposing teams can never really be sure what Duff Man is up to, and that versatility and sheer randomness work well for him.
The Motivator- Matt Ryan
While Ryan comes across as the world's most boring interview and a guy more likely to lower the lights in a room than lower the boom, I happen to know he's a great leader of men when there's not a microphone in his face. As he continues to mature and seize the leadership role on this team—and grow as a player—Ryan will go from one of the pillars of this team to its heart and fire. This upcoming season would be a great time to start.
The Prankster- Thomas DeCoud
On a loose team full of fun-loving dudes, DeCoud stands out. It might be his college photo, which I'm sure one of you will post in the comments within five minutes of this article going up. It might be his willingness to participate in the meow game. It might be any one of those things, really, but he's a free spirit out there. The team needs to stay loose, and DeCoud will help.
The Muscle- Sam Baker
If the team is going to improve further in pass blocking—and I give the chances of Sam Baker re-signing at 75% or better, so he's probably the guy—the entire line is going to have to get in on it. Baker improved last year, and if he can show up stronger and better than ever, it will go a long way toward helping the pass game hum.
Who are your seven?