Looking at the list of players currently coping with injuries reveals three players who really, really need to be healthy for Atlanta in 2015.
1) Jake Matthews
This is obvious, yes, but I don't think it can be stated enough. A healthy Jake Matthews has the chance to deliver on his considerable potential and lock down left tackle for the first time in many, many years. Matthews at less than 100% is a potential liability at a critical position along the offensive line, and the Falcons don't appear to have the depth to solve that particularly thorny problem.
With Sam Baker gone, Lamar Holmes injured and not really a good option in the first place and Tyler Polumbus predictably scuffling early in the offseason, it's Matthews or bust at left tackle. I'm a believer in his talent and I'd definitely argue that his ankle limited him in his first season, but that just makes it more urgent
The good news is that Matthews appears to be on track to return by preseason with no particular reservations or red flags. Let's hope he can turn his second year into a terrific one.
2) William Moore
With apologies to Kemal Ishmael, who showed us quite a bit last year and may be primed for a bigger role down the line, the strong safety job belongs to William Moore. He'll be a key player on Dan Quinn's defense, and
Moore does so many things well that he's always in danger of being underrated for any number of them. He's a big hitter, he's more than competent in coverage, he's capable of breaking up passes or picking them and he's a vocal, intelligent leader for the secondary. His aggression and strength means he's capable of moving up and taking on limited linebacker duties if Quinn wants to move him around, as well. To sum it all up, Moore is always ready and also very good, and he wouldn't be easily replaced if he wasn't healthy.
While Moore is being brought along slowly, the larger concern lies with him staying healthy for a full season. He's only played in 16 games twice in his six-year career. The only bright note is that Ishmael can step in if Moore can't go, and that gives the Falcons a palatable option, unlike at left tackle.
3) Jon Asamoah
I hate to double dip on the offensive line, but this is another critical spot. Asamoah was by far the team's most effective lineman in 2014, and while there are some who believe he isn't an ideal fit for the zone blocking scheme Kyle Shanahan is installing, he's athletic and talented enough to make the transition work just fine. You know, assuming he's healthy.
Right now, Asamoah is nursing an ankle injury that cost him most of mandatory minicamp, but there are no indications it's going to be a long-term concern. You'll forgive me for being a little nervous when your backup options are guys like Mike Person, Peter Konz and Jared Rodgers, none of whom have a long track record of success at right guard. The Falcons need Asamoah to be healthy and play well for this offense to live up to its considerable promise.
Who are you keeping an eye on, injury-wise?