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NFL Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons Top 5 Off-Season Needs in 2013

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The Atlanta Falcons Top 5 Needs for 2013

Falcons
Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports

The Atlanta Falcons were oh so close in 2012, boasting the best regular season record in the NFL, and coming just 10 yards shy of a trip to the Super Bowl. As I've written, this was nothing for the Falcons to be ashamed of, but this team needs to keep looking forward and making the adjustments to take them to the next level.

Obviously, there are some parts of the puzzle in Atlanta that don't need to be fixed. They have a All-Pro quarterback in Matt Ryan, and Julio Jones and Roddy White give them arguably the best tandem of wide receivers in the game.

The defensive secondary--although at times shabby looking--is strong and hungry, and will only get stronger with a full year of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's teachings under their belts. Atlanta gave up a lot of passing yards, but seldom gave up the big play, or more importantly, the score.

Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher were very strong in the kicking and punting games, although Bryant may be expensive for the Falcons to retain in 2013.

With all of that good work going on, there has to be some room for improvement. Some groups will need to be tweaked, and some players will have to be replaced, whether due to poor performance, attrition, or just retirement.

If Atlanta wants to build on what they accomplished in 2012, here are some key areas that will need a hard look during this off-season.

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#5: Offensive Line

oline
Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

The Falcons offensive line was better in 2012, much better. Sam Baker started to show that he wasn't a complete bust, and rookie Peter Konz had a very strong first year. But center Todd McClure may be done with his career, and finding some road plows to open holes for the running game is going to have to be a priority. The two guard positions will need to be addressed.

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#4: Tight End

tony
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports

It's looking very likely that tight end Tony Gonzalez is going to call it a career, and replacing someone who is surely to end up in the Hall of Fame is an impossible task. If Gonzalez does indeed leave the game, then Atlanta is going to be faced with the task of finding another big body with hands like glue to catch passes and take punishment across the middle of the field, as well as find those Matt Ryan guided missiles in the back of the end zone.

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#3: Defensive End

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Josh D. Weiss - USA Today Sports

Generating a pass rush was a huge problem for the Falcons in 2012, and if they try to rely on John Abraham to do it alone again, it may get even worse. There are a number of potential free agents who would be worth a look, although they will all be fairly expensive to land. The ends that the Falcons have taken in the past few drafts haven't quite panned out, so this will be a huge area for the Atlanta war room to look at.

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#2: Interior Defensive Line

dline
Josh D. Weiss - USA Today Sports

The Falcons couldn't stop the run, and they couldn't move the line of scrimmage backwards. Some space-eaters and more athletic guys on the line will have to be found for Atlanta to really find more success. Teams took advantage of this weakness, and it was never more visible than in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, who run the ball as well as anyone in the league. There are a couple of schools who played in the SEC Championship game who are sending some likely candidates to the pro ranks.

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#1: Running Back

mike
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports

Michael Turner can't carry the running game anymore, and Jacquizz Rodgers, although a nice player, isn't that guy that can carry a team on his back the way Turner used to for the Falcons. With the Dirk Koetter offense in place, there is no reason for someone to carry the ball 300 times a season, but Atlanta has to be able to pose at least somewhat of a threat coming out of the backfield. Finding a back that defenses have to account for on every down will make this offense even scarier in 2013.