2016 Atlanta Falcons Offseason Positional Needs
Despite a 6-1 start to 2015, the Atlanta Falcons ended their season without a playoff berth for the third straight season. Now, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff must go into another offseason looking to right the ship and get back into the NFC Playoffs for the first time since 2012. Luckily, the Falcons are armed with over $25 million in cap space and with no big-ticket pending free agents this offseason the Falcons could be potentially big spenders in free agency and with a multitude of needs, they will need every penny of that cap space to end a three year playoff drought.
Despite another 100 plus tackle season from third-year pro Paul Worrilow, the Falcons lack playmakers at the second level of the defense. Quite frankly, they haven’t had a true playmaker at linebacker since Sean Weatherspoon’s heyday in 2012. Many draft analysts have linked the Falcons to Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland in early mock drafts and pending free agents Danny Trevathan and Bruce Miller could also be potential targets.
With some talented young players along the defensive line and in the secondary, Dan Quinn is a playmaking linebacker or two from truly putting his stamp on this defense. The Falcons need to invest highly in the linebacker position this offseason, be it in free agency, the draft… Or both.
From the time Matt Ryan entered the league in 2008 until the loss in the 2012 NFC Championship game to the San Francisco 49ers, Ryan had one of the most reliable centers in the NFL in former LSU Tiger Todd McClure.
After McClure’s retirement in 2013 though, it has been a revolving door at the center position. Peter Konz, James Stone, Jow Hawley, Mike Person and Gino Gradkowski have all started games at center over the last three seasons and have yielded more bad results than good. Granted, Hawley and Person both played well at times, the lack of stability at center has severely impacted the offensive chemistry. The Falcons need to address the interior offensive line as a whole, especially at center as Jake Matthews and Ryan Schrader have blossomed into an underrated tackle combo on the outside.
Should the Falcons be able to solidify the offensive line an offense with Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan should be able to put up points in bunches in 2016.
Despite some promise shown by rookie Vic Beasley, the Falcons were still among the worst teams in the NFL rushing the passer. While it isn’t the biggest need for the Falcons this offseason, it is still among the biggest needs for the team, for what feels like the tenth offseason in a row. Despite the flashes Beasley showed in 2015, the Falcons are still in the dire need of a pass rush in 2016, should they get Beasley and Ra’Shede Hageman some help along the defensive line the Falcons defense should instantly be twice the unit they were in 2015 from a pass rushing standpoint.
Josh Gamez is a writer for the Atlanta Falcons for Pro Football Spot.