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Falcons season preview: Falcoholic staff weigh in on Atlanta's fortunes in 2015

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A look at the Falcons record, key players, and expectations for the year ahead.

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The year ahead is an uncertain one, but we're all actively trying to figure things out.The Falcoholic's staff weigh in with their predictions for what lies ahead.

Allen Strk

Record: 10-6 (Playoffs)

MVP: Julio Jones

Offensive Player of the year: Matt Ryan

Defensive player of the year: Justin Durant

Rookie of the year: Vic Beasley


An extremely weak division and schedule will bolster Atlanta's win total. They will improve this season based on their coaching staff and front seven. After being in the bottom five of third-down defense over the past four seasons, the combination of Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn will give opposing offensive lines fits. Bounce-back seasons for Paul Soliai and William Moore will inspire this defense towards becoming a competent unit.


How the offensive line and secondary performs will determine Atlanta's status as a darkhorse or the best of the worst. The interior offensive line has been completely revamped with declining veterans, which has prompted major cause for concern. Jalen Collins doesn't seem ready to contribute this season. Ricardo Allen and Robert Alford have to prove their worth as starters. Atlanta's explosive aerial attack and improved front seven will propel them over their other deficiencies. A first-round exit to the Detroit Lions will conclude this exciting season.

The DW

Record: 10-6 (Playoffs)

MVP: Matt Ryan

Offensive Player of the year: Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the year: Desmond Trufant

Rookie of the year: Vic Beasley


Fans may need to be patient, as the beginning of the season could be filled with growing pains on both sides of the ball. The offensive line is still coming together and young players like Ricardo Allen and Ra'Shede Hageman are brand new starters on the revamped defense. But there's no denying that Quinn and his staff have brought a new energy to the team that should help overcome some of these early growing pains as the season progresses. The highly creative mind of Kyle Shanahan could finally be unleashed with a true pocket QB and dangerous weapons like Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman. If nothing else, this season should be a highly entertaining one.


The playoffs should be in reach, as the other teams in this division have weaknesses that can be exploited. Carolina's defense is stout, but their lack of weapons on offense brings them back down to earth. The Saints offense will likely still be top-10, but their defense is highly concerning. And the Bucs ... well, they're the Bucs. If the Falcons can just field a league average defense this year, there is no reason they can't win the division.

Matthew Chambers

Record: 9-7 (Playoffs)

MVP: Julio Jones

Offensive Player of the Year: Tevin Coleman

Defensive Player of the Year: Ra'Shede Hageman

Rookie of the Year: Tevin Coleman


The Falcons appear to be a rebuilding team that is in "win now" mode. The team has badly, badly underperformed the last two years, but Dan Quinn and co. appear dedicated to not getting in the way of their players. Despite some much needed turnover, I think we can expect a reasonable bounce back season while going through some growing pains. Thanks to an absurdly easy schedule and a terrible division, the Falcons remain a good bet to finish with a winning record and a playoff berth.

Alec Shirkey

Record: 8-8

MVP: Desmond Trufant

Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the Year: Ra'Shede Hageman

Rookie of the Year: Tevin Coleman


Concerns about the offensive line have me less optimistic than my colleagues. Even with the short-term loss of Brooks Reed, the defense should improve by leaps and bounds. Hageman looks primed for a monster year, and Trufant wins MVP because of his ability to take away the opposing team's No. 1 receiver -- a vital component of what makes Quinn's scheme tick. Jones will see an overwhelming share of the targets, making back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons a reasonable possibility, while Coleman has a real chance to take the starting job and run with it.

I still expect the running game has a ways to go and could struggle early as the overhauled O-line tries to gel. How Ricardo Allen and Vic Beasley fare in prominent roles will also be crucial factors to follow this season. The Falcons could easily start 1-3, but an otherwise weak schedule with favorable matchups against the Jaguars, Titans and Washington have me thinking the new coaching staff can definitely squeeze a .500 season out of this roster. Believe in Quinn.

Charles McDonald

Record: 9-7 (Playoffs)

MVP: Matt Ryan

Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Durant

Rookie of the Year: "Lambo" Vic Beasley

This is the first time I've truly been excited about a Falcons season in two years. Yes, I root for the team passionately, but it finally feels like the team has a clear focus and direction on both sides of the ball. The personnel that Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff, and Scott Pioli have brought in on defense will pay off immediately; I'm expecting for this defense to finish ranked around the middle of the pack which would obviously be a massive improvement.

For me, the offense is the bigger question mark than the defense this year. As we saw in the preseason, the offensive line is still very much a work in progress. Kyle Shanahan finally has "his guys" for the zone blocking scheme he wants to run, but it's going to take a bit of time for this unit gel. The interior of the offensive line (Levitre, Person, Chester) is completely different than last season and they'll need to get used to playing with each other.

Outside of the offensive line, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should have very good years. Julio appears to be poised for a career year in 2015 and the Falcons should possess a potent aerial attack. The running game may take a bit of time to figure out, but rookie Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman should have a few solid games. Overall, I think this is a team that can win the NFC South due to the weakness of the division, but I wouldn't get too excited about them making a lot of noise in the playoffs.

Kendall Jackson

Record: 12-4 (Playoffs)

MVP: Matt Ryan

Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the Year Desmond Trufant

Rookie of the Year: Tevin Coleman


Call me optimistic, homeristic or (insert adjective here), but I have a difficult time looking at the Falcons' schedule and the state of the NFC South and not seeing a huge bounceback season on the horizon. Based on how the teams performed last season, Atlanta has the league's easiest schedule, and only three of the 2015 opponents made the playoffs last year (Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and the Carolina Panthers).


The Falcons made significant upgrades to a defense that ranked 32nd last season with the additions of Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, and Justin Durant. More importantly: Dan Quinn has the defensive players in positions to succeed — something we rarely saw the past two seasons. Granted, Atlanta's defense likely won't rank among the best in the NFL, but it has a shot at being respectable, and that's all the offense needs.

Sure, concerns about the offensive line are legitimate after watching the Miami Dolphins' defensive line go berserk in the third preseason game. The good news: the Falcons won't face many fronts as dominating as Miami's. It may admittedly take a couple of games before this unit gels, but I'm not particularly worried. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have the best years of their career, Desmond Trufant finally gets his due as one of the league's top cornerbacks, and Tevin Coleman shows why he was named the starter at running back.

Jake Bennett

Record: 10-6 (Playoffs, Hosting Wild Card)

MVP: Matt Ryan

Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones

Defensive Player of the Year: Adrian Clayborn

ROY: Vic Beasley


Looking at Atlanta's schedule this season, it's quite hard to imagine this team having more losses than wins. Add that to a roster that might not be half-bad, and you have a win total that sneaks in over .500.

Aside from the Dolphins game, Ryan, Julio, Coleman and the rest of the offense looked crisp throughout the preseason, and should be well-equipped to slap points on the board. Not to mention a revamped defensive front that, with some luck, will generate a legitimate pass rush for the first time in six or seven seasons. If the Falcons are to improve from the past two seasons of underachievement, it will be by the hands of this defense.

It's hard to not be excited about this team, and seeing how poor play-calling lost us a handful of games last year, a ten win prediction isn't too crazy, for me. But like my fellow writers here have asserted, the biggest concern going in will be the offensive line. Losing Asamoah to injury and Hawley to roster moves hurt, but a brilliant move in adding Andy Levitre might alleviate some of that pain. All we can hope for is that this line has had a quick minute to gel this past week, and that it can be in the ballpark of "serviceable" on Monday Night Football for the whole league to see.


p.s. Clayborn is going to wreck shop.

Dave Choate

Record: 9-7

MVP: Matt Ryan

Offensive Player of the Year: Julio Jones
Defensive Player of the Year: Desmond Trufant

Rookie of the Year: Vic Beasley

I'm doing my damndest not to be optimistic about this team, given the way the Falcons have disappointed us the last two seasons, but I've failed. I have this team with a winning record and a crack at the playoffs, depending on how the NFC shakes out.

It all starts with new coach Dan Quinn, who has to prove he's better than the steady Mike Smith, but clearly brings a more aggressive defensive-style I feel the Falcons need. The additions of Adrian Clayborn, Vic Beasley, Brooks Reed (when healthy), Justin Durant, and even Grady Jarrett give me confidence that this defense will not be absolutely terrible for the third straight season. Pair that with an offense loaded with skill position talent and you've got the makings of at least a decent football team, one that is facing a pretty easy schedule.

The note of caution here and the thing that keeps me from predicting double digit wins is the offensive line. The defense was a catastrophe the last two seasons, but a truly lackluster line can limit the offense in major ways, and I don't have enough faith in this unit right now to predict a huge season from Atlanta. The defense is also unlikely to be anywhere near great this season, given some personnel limitations and growing pains, which is also a limiting factor.