If you’re like me then you are excited about and anticipating this upcoming season for the Atlanta Falcons. There are a lot of unknowns and questions about the team, including the new coaching staff, the running back situation, the hole at slot receiver, the pass rush, and even the secondary. When looking at the coaching staff, we definitely improved from last season. A lot of times when a new coaching staff comes in that also means motivation for young players who were drafted by the old staff. One of those players for us being our second round pick from last year, DT Ra’Shede Hageman. Hopefully with this new coaching staff in place it will motivate Hageman to work hard whenever he’s on the field and not take plays off. My bold prediction: This will be a breakout season for the second year defensive lineman. With this new coaching staff here, they will help unleash the tons of talent that Hageman has.
The Falcons have been looking for a running back ever since the departure of Michael Turner. This year we will find that running game again. With Kyle Shanahan coming in as our offensive coordinator he brings with him the zone blocking system. This is the same system that Alfred Morris was in his rookie season and Justin Forsett was in last year. It sets up explosive running backs for huge success and we definitely have some explosive backs. In this year’s draft we added RB Tevin Coleman to the mix with our third round pick. We also are getting back Antone Smith as well as second year back, Devonta Freeman. My bold prediction: no matter if it’s Freeman or Coleman starting this year, we will have a thousand yard running back. With both Coleman and Freeman both being extremely explosive, they will be set up for a huge season.
Who will be our slot receiver this year? Well I have an answer Falcons fans! We lost WR Harry Douglas in the offseason this year who was very good for us. In this year’s draft though, we used our fourth round pick and selected the NCAA All-Time leader in receptions, WR Justin Hardy, from ECU. This might just go down as one of the biggest steals in the 2015 Draft. Hardy should come in and play the slot for us and excel. My bold prediction: Justin Hardy will have six touchdowns this year. With so much attention on Roddy and Julio, Hardy will get his opportunities.
The past few years defense has been a huge question mark for all Falcons fans, with pass rush being the biggest question mark with our defense. With key additions to our team in free agency like DE Adrian Clayborn, LB Brooks Reed, LB Justin Durant, and LB O’Brien Schofield the pass rush already is better. We didn’t get big name free agents, but we got great role players who can come in and rush the passer effectively. Then in the draft our pass rush needs were even more fulfilled with our eighth overall pick, DE Vic Beasley. This was an incredible pick for us and a few years from now Beasley might be known as the best pass rusher of the 2015 draft class. My bold prediction for Vic Beasley: eleven sacks. Beasley will be playing the LEO position in our defense which means he’s going to be going downhill hunting down the opposing quarterback a lot which will set him up for huge success.
With an improved pass rush this also means help for our secondary. This year the secondary will be greatly improved with the addition of our second round pick CB Jalen Collins and then we still have CB Robert Alford and our shutdown corner, Desmond Trufant. With the improved pass rush the secondary won’t have to chase down receivers all day. My bold prediction for the secondary: Desmond Trufant will be named to his first Pro Bowl of many to come. Trufant is by far the most underrated corner in the NFL and possibly the most underrated player in the NFL. He should have made the Pro Bowl last year, but got snubbed. This year he will be set up for even more success.
Now it’s time for my bold prediction on our record this season: 11-5. Is this bold? Yes it is, however it is possible. We have an explosive offense with the addition of a much improved running game and a much improved defense. We also play in a weak division and have a very easy schedule, so why not?
My last bold prediction: the Atlanta Falcons will be the NFC South Division Champions this year. To win the NFC South, it seems like all you have to do is have a .500 record or barely a winning record. Carolina has shown that they aren’t nearly as good as they were a couple of years ago and they have holes in the offense and some in the defensive secondary. The New Orleans Saints are not very good at all defensively and they aren’t the best offensively. Tampa Bay was the worst team in the division last year and their horrendous offensive line hasn’t improved much, plus they have a rookie quarterback this year in Jameis Winston. With the Falcons going 11-5, it will be an easy division championship for the Atlanta Falcons.