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Top Offseason Needs of the Atlanta Falcons
2016 Season Recap
Atlanta certainly looked like the biggest, baddest juggernaut during the 2016-17 season. The team led the league in points scored with 540, which was also good enough for seventh all-time in NFL history. And with that much firepower, the Falcons basically cruised through the playoffs and made it all the way to just their second-ever Super Bowl appearance in 51 years of existence.
But then… Tom Brady happened. Again. The Patriots staged an unprecedented comeback of epic proportions to say the least, scoring 25 unanswered points in the second half and overtime to eventually win Super Bowl LI for the fifth time in the Brady/Bill Belichick era.
That utterly soul-crushing loss is one that will virtually linger forever for the downtrodden Falcons and the entire city of Atlanta. And while the Falcons will be gifted with a new state-of-the-art stadium by next season, they also have to bid farewell to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who orchestrated the team’s offensive attack to near perfection but agreed to take the head-coaching job in San Francisco shortly after Atlanta won the NFC Championship Game.
Shanahan’s departure leaves a huge void that the Falcons have to fill competently to somehow sustain their electric attack from the previous campaign. And considering how badly they melted down against the Pats in Houston, hiring a new OC is just one of the significant issues that the team will have to address this long offseason.
Top Free Agency Needs
The Falcons had a pretty solid offensive line last season, but most of the dirty work was really put in by Matty Ice and his fantastic pocket presence. However, that one strip-sack off of Ryan in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI turned the tides tremendously for New England to complete its massive comeback, and that one turnover really speaks volumes of the O-line’s struggles when the pressure is really on.
The team has got to find somebody who can work well together with four-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack along the trenches. One interesting fact from Sunday’s championship game is that Mack actually started Super Bowl LI with a freakin’ broken fibula, and it was clear that Atlanta’s offensive line wasn’t the same with its star center playing with just one good leg.
Having said that, the Falcons should be on the market for a guard that could possibly replace veteran Chris Chester in the starting roster. Someone in the likes of Green Bay’s T.J. Lang comes to mind, as well as Detroit’s Larry Walford. Both Lang and Walford are coming from pass-heavy teams themselves and should transition well with Atlanta’s own brand of offense.
Top Draft Needs
We failed to mention earlier that the Falcons’ defense didn’t really clamp down until the playoffs were underway. For the most part, it was this unit that was the main culprit as for why Atlanta lost five of their regular-season games, and it reared its ugly head again at the worst time possible in Houston.
While the Falcons could easily find upgrades from free agency, we also witnessed in small spurts during the postseason how their young defensive core can collectively shut down the opposition. They already have some nice upstarts in defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and the cornerback tandem of Jalen Collins and Robert Alford. Not to mention star linebacker Vic Beasley Jr., who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last regular season.
As such, Atlanta should be predominantly drafting defensive pieces in the first few rounds of the draft indeed, beginning with either of Michigan’s big boys in Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton. And if by some chance a shut-down corner like Tezz Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore or Sidney Jones is still on the board in the first round, the Falcons may as well take the opportunity to fully upgrade their secondary that gave up the fifth-most passing yards in the league last season.
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