The mantra has been there all offseason, a tiny hammer tapping Falcons fans on the back of the head. The team repeatedly uses words like bigger, tougher, stronger and grittier to describe their goals this offseason, and as we've noted, they took concrete steps toward those goals through the acquisitions of players like Jon Asamoah, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson on the lines.
Yet that wasn't enough, because you can only turn over your roster so much in one year. If the Falcons truly wanted to achieve those goals and justify the use of those terms approximately eight million times in the last four months, they would have to get players on their current roster to gain strength, bulk up and get ready to take on new roles.
It's May, but the early returns are encouraging. John Manasso at FOX Sports South has Mike Smith saying things like this, about Sam Baker:
"I think Sam is moving around extremely well," Smith said. "He's gotten stronger, he's gotten bigger. I think it's very noticeable -- if you look at our team from what they've done in the offseason in terms of their body weights, their body weights are up, their body fat is down and that's a positive."
Some of this is the influence of Mike Tice, who clearly came in looking for more beef up front after the offensive line floundered badly in 2013. The rest comes from A.J. Niebel, the team's strength and conditioning coach, who got his marching orders from the rest of the staff and has players like Baker, Peter Konz, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu reporting to organized team activities sporting added muscle and thus far not showing any signs of being slowed by it.
Again, we're not at the point where this guarantees the Falcons anything. Many are still fairly skeptical about the Falcons' chances in 2014, but ensuring players are stronger and the team has better personnel on the lines can potentially carry this team a long way.