Falcons Preview Capsule
ATLANTA FALCONS (13-6)
New faces: DT Dontari Poe, DE Jack Crawford, FB Derrick Coleman, WR Andre Roberts, rookie DE Takkarist McKinley, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian.
Key losses: DT Ra’Shede Hageman (commissioner’s exempt list), DT Jonathan Babineaux, OG Chris Chester, FB Patrick DiMarco, TE Jacob Tamme, LB Paul Worrilow, DE Dwight Freeney, WR Eric Weems, SS Dashon Goldson, LB Philip Wheeler.
Strengths: Atlanta returns most of its playmakers from offense that led NFL in scoring in 2016. Quarterback Matt Ryan, 2016 MVP, leads balanced attack that includes running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Young defense is on rise after starting four rookies and four second-year players in 2016.
Weaknesses: Depth which was exposed in Super Bowl collapse still appeared to be concern in 0-4 preseason. Starting defense should be improved but only one or two injuries, especially in secondary, could lead to severe dropoff. There is still question at right guard, where Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer alternated through preseason in attempt to replace Chester. Rotation could continue into regular season, perhaps harming continuity that was 2016 strength when Falcons were only team to start same five on line throughout season.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Ryan, Freeman and Jones are obvious. Second-year TE Austin Hooper could be breakout player. Coleman’s stock would rise if Freeman, who missed two preseason games with concussion but should be ready for regular season, has another injury. Sanu also could be fantasy bargain.
Expectations: Falcons coach Dan Quinn has stressed focus on future instead of looking back to try to gain motivation from Super Bowl collapse. He also has told players to worry about tough NFC South instead of thinking only of return to big game. There was almost no talk of Super Bowl during training camp, but anything short of another long playoff run would be disappointment.
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