The Falcons are in the enviable position of looking like a complete team going into 2017, minus one or two positions. Most people agree that solidifying the defensive line and finding a long-term starter at right guard are two priorities this year, but what about bolstering the depth?
The Falcons did a good job of surviving some key injuries in 2016, but depth is a year-to-year question that has to be addressed. Given the expected departures going into the 2017 season, these are some of the key positions that may need to be addressed in the coming season.
This was arguably one of the Falcons weakest positions on defense in 2016, and it’s one that the team is likely to address multiple times before the season begins. Veteran Jonathan Babineaux has already hinted he won’t be back with the team and Tyson Jackson has never seemed like a great option at DT. Grady Jarrett is definitely one of our long-term answers, but questions still remain about Ra’Shede Hageman and whether he can be trusted as a starter.
The opportunity to upgrade here is huge. Not only does the team need a quality starter to pair with Jarrett, it really needs to bolster the overall depth. As much as I love Ben Garland, it would be ideal to not have to use him on both sides of the ball.
I fully expect the team to draft and/or sign more than one defensive tackle this year, and for good reason.
Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are two young, quality tackles that the team should be thrilled to have. Past that, though, the conversation becomes murky. While Tom Compton played well in spots, the Falcons may want to find another young tackle to groom as a long-term swing tackle to backup Matthews and Schraeder.
For the past few years, the Falcons have gotten by with signing veterans like Compton or Bryce Harris to fill that spot. It’s time they found another young prospect that they can develop into a quality backup. While swing tackle doesn’t sound like an important depth position, it could be critical if either Matthews or Schraeder misses more than a game or two in any season.
I couldn’t be more excited about the play of both Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. They definitely look like a young duo the Falcons can build on going forward. However, the team has been relying heavily on veteran stop-gaps and it’s time to fill the position with more talent. Guys like Philip Wheeler, Laroy Reynolds and Paul Worrilow played ok in limited action, but none of them offer the same type of athleticism and speed that Jones and Campbell do.
Finding athletic, fast linebackers to be backups is easier said than done, but it could be critical, given that both Jones and Campbell missed games in 2016. Injecting some quality youth into the LB corps should be considered strongly in 2017.
Austin Hooper looks like he could be a great starter over the long-haul, but past him there are a bunch of question marks. Levine Toilolo is too inconsistent to trust on a regular basis and we still need to see more out of Joshua Perkins before calling him TE2. Jacob Tamme could be brought back for another year, but the reality is that the Falcons might want to invest in the position yet again in 2017. It’s possible that Perkins and D.J. Tialavea will be quality depth guys this year, but don’t be surprised if the team chooses to try and upgrade the depth going into 2017.
What other positions do you think need better overall depth going into the next season?