Considering that the Falcons won just ten games over the course of the previous two seasons, it's important to understand that no matter how successful this year's draft and free agency efforts were, this roster still has some holes. Which position group is still the weakest as the Falcons look toward the season? Our writers had pretty varied perspectives on this topic.
I'm not sure this position group is really the weakest, but it does have a lot of questions surrounding it, from guys coming off injuries to the transition to an entirely new scheme. The tackle positions should be pretty well set, as Jake Matthews should be improved on the left side and Ryan Schraeder certainly played well on the right side last season, but it remains to be seen who will actually win the starting left guard role. Joe Hawley and Peter Konz are both coming off of injuries that ended their seasons last year, and Jonathan Asamoah has been battling an ankle injury over the past couple of weeks. Lamar Holmes also looks to be out for a few weeks with a broken foot. This is a unit that desperately needs to be improved both in terms of run blocking and pass protection, and so many unknowns at this point is enough to make me slightly nervous about this group heading into the season.
Two things about this: 1) "But how can you say this? We just added a bunch of LBs in free agency?" ...No. and 2) I'm in a "Prove it" mindset with this group. Until I'm shown they're vastly improved, I will assume it hasn't changed much. Fan favorites or not, the linebacker group in 2014 was far and away the worst part of our defense and has been for some time. We could not stop the run and we could not cover TEs, and doing neither of those is going to lead to not only big problems, but long, drawn out drives that eat a ton of clock, which by extension leaves our far superior offense on the sideline.
I left this at interior linebacker because our defensive alignment has changed, and some people will include Beasley as a linebacker even though I currently am on the fence about that. In any case, we'll need improved play from both the new and old faces in our LB corps if we're going to turn the corner in 2015.
That the Falcons felt the need to sign players like Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus so late in the offseason says a lot about this group's depth. I had questions before the team released Sam Baker, who for all his inability to stay healthy would have at least provided a safety net, and I certainly have questions following his departure. Though talented, Jake Matthews still needs to prove he can handle playing one of the NFL's toughest positions. Ryan Schraeder came on nicely at the end of last season, but that's no guarantee opposing teams won't adjust to him in 2015. Joe Hawley is coming off an ACL tear. And the hole at left guard -- whether filled by Peter Konz, James Stone or Chester -- remains a concern. So I'm not quite sold on this unit, especially given the way it has hampered Atlanta's offense in recent years. We'll see how Kyle Shanahan's zone blocking scheme fares.
This position still haunts my dreams. For all I've argued that Levine Toilolo will improve and that the depth chart is miles ahead of where it was a year ago, this still is one of the weakest positions on the team. The Falcons are a Jacob Tamme injury away from the oft-injured Tony Moeaki and Levine Toilolo seeing major snaps, and we just can't be sure how that's going to go.
I would have felt great about the depth chart had the Falcons been able to land Tim Wright, but as it stands now, we're hoping for a monster year from Tamme. Color me nervous. - I get it. White people can turn any color.
After years with a head coach who always said that sacks do not matter, the team was left without any decent pass rusher. This year, the Falcons were forced to rebuild with a number of part-time players in free agency like O'Brien Schofield and Adrian Clayborn. The team will hope Vic Beasley and and a heavy rotation will improve the pass rush. However, Atlanta is likely a few years, and a few players, away from having a competent group that can slow down an elite offense.
There's only one position in the secondary I have absolutely no worries about, and it's manned by Desmond Trufant who, in just two seasons, has cemented himself as one of the better cornerbacks in the league. While I'm not concerned with William Moore's ability, his health issues are a bit worrisome even if he does have a capable backup in Kemal Ishmael.
Free safety has to be the biggest question mark with veteran Charles Godfrey, converted cornerback Ricardo Allen, and the aforementioned Ishmael battling it out for the starting spot. At right cornerback, the winner will be between Robert Alford, who had a penalty-ridden and inconsistent 2014 season before he broke his wrist, and second-round rookie Jalen Collins.
This group could end up being a strength when all is said and done, but I can't say I'm overly comfortable with the secondary as is.
The Falcons will go into 2015 two years removed from having the greatest TE to play in the NFL. In the years since the team traded for him in 2009, the Falcons have not made significant moves to find his heir apparent and we are now reaping what we have sown. The drafting of Levine Toilolo has - to this point - failed miserably. Jacob Tamme can be a serviceable receiving target and Moeaki has loads of potential when not injured, but this is a group that inspires very little confidence - especially since the position is one that is used heavily in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
The hope for this position group is that Tamme can play at his highest level since coming into the league while Moeaki stays healthy and Toilolo makes some big developments. Those are a lot of "ifs" though, and it is the reason this position group concerns me the most.
Which position group do you have the most concerns about heading into the season?