It's time for the mailbag! Let's get right to this week's questions.
tgriffith3: Are you okay with our receiving options going into the season? Granted, we're head and shoulders above many other teams in this category, but our success in the past had been predicated on having three dominant receiving weapons. With Tony gone and Julio and Roddy coming off injury, I'm not confident that we've done enough in this area. Devin Hester is explosive but not reliable, and we've done nothing to solidify TE.
Yes and no. As long as Julio Jones is healthy, the Falcons have two terrific options in Jones and Roddy White, a solid enough third option in Harry Douglas and Levine Toilolo, who I think has some promise. Add in the trio of pass-catching backs on the roster and you've got a solid backbone.
That said, the Falcons are an injury away from having a problem unless Devin Hester is ready to thrive, Drew Davis steps up big-time or Darius Johnson makes the leap. I can't in good conscience tell you I expect any of those, and as it stands the Falcons don't have a truly deep set of receiving options. Thankfully, their top options stack up favorably against most teams in the NFL.
@TheFalcoholic does tyler starr make the 53 man roster?— Anthony Romero (@AnthonyRomero__) May 20, 2014
In my mind, it's likely. The Falcons are starving for help off the edge and while there's many months to go and hurdles for Starr to overcome, the motor, athleticism and toolkit are there for him to be a useful reserve in his first year. Obviously seventh round picks are inherent longshots, but Starr is making a quality early impression and will at least make a strong case.
Atlanta Superbowls: i'm super confident in our O-line but what do u think about our d-line? will we get enough pass rush to be at least top 15 in the league?
This is a crucial question. The Falcons can probably make real noise in the NFC this season if they have a league average pass rush, one that can apply legitimate pressure to opposing quarterbacks and disrupt some of the effective passing games they'll be facing. If they're once again one of the worst units in the league, that's going to be a major problem.
I think that on balance, the Falcons can be a top twenty unit. I think the added beef up front will free up pass rushers to, as the popular phrase goes, pin their ears back and rush the quarterback. Assuming Jonathan Massaquoi steps up and some of the young options can stand and deliver, I think the pass rush will be at least headed in the right direction. Top 15 might be pushing it a little.
Bread Whistle: What do all these additions at DL mean for Corey Peters? I honestly thought that he would be one of the center pieces of our defense before, but now it seems like he's just buried in the depth charts.
This is a tough call. On one hand, a healthy Peters offers legitimate pass rushing ability and is, at minimum, a terrific rotational piece. On the other hand, it's not yet clear when he'll be healthy, he's signed to a one-year deal and the Falcons are brimming with options up front. I anticipate he'll make the team, but he may have to fight for some snaps early before he hits his stride, and I can't guarantee anything.
If Ra'Shede Hageman doesn't get off to a fast start and all goes well with his rehab, Peters could supplant him as a starting 3-4 end, assuming Jonathan Babineaux hasn't already done so.
the way i see it: why no pass rush specialst to work with outside linebackers?
This is an interesting question. Many of you remember the Chuck Smith for line coach/pass rush coach movement earlier this year, and how it ended with the hiring of Bryan Cox. What many of you may not recall is that the Falcons did hire a dedicated outside linebackers coach in Mark Collins.
Collins was an assistant with the defensive line for the last few years, where he focused on pass rush. The Falcons' official website gives him at least some of the credit for the fine work done by Jonathan Massaquoi in his limited opportunity, as well as Corey Peters. Collins a background in coaching multiple positions and was clearly moved to the new outside linebackers coach gig because the Falcons want him to work on the pass rush with those players.
It will be interesting to see what kind of work he does in that capacity, frankly.
Oddly, I think it may be Ricardo Allen. The Falcons are going to want to throw a ton of bodies at linebacker, but things aren't as unsettled at cornerback. The Falcons, today, can trot out Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Robert McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas as a five-man set there, and every one of those players has a good shot to offer more production than Allen in his rookie season.
There's no question the Falcons will sock Allen away on the practice squad in this scenario. What would keep Allen on the roster, in my mind, is the fear of losing him if he hits squad and another team comes along and pulls a William Middleton.
Tyler Starr and Yawin Smallwood are, just by virtue of their draft status, the clear runner-ups. I could see the entire class sticking on the final roster, though.
@TheFalcoholic What are the chances that Jake Matthews is the highest graded lineman for us this year?— Nintendo Hawk (@SkywardCrowbar) May 20, 2014
I would say 75%. The talent and work ethic are there, so it'd take a faceplant for him not to at least be one of the top three guys on the line. Even with a rookie as polished as Matthews, though, it's tough to guarantee with 100% confidence that he will be the very best lineman, particularly with the always solid Justin Blalock on board.