NFL Atlanta Falcons

5 Current Atlanta Falcons Who Need to ‘Rise Up’ in 2013

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5 Current Atlanta Falcons Who Need to Rise Up

Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

OK, we all know the story. The 2012 Atlanta Falcons were just 10 yards short of a trip to the Super Bowl. The window is closing on this team to get the job done and bring home the first Lombardi Trophy in the history of the franchise. So, what needs to happen to get it done?

The Falcons have their stars--Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and (hopefully) Tony Gonzalez--to keep things moving in the right direction. Their two first-year coordinators worked nothing short of miracles at times. The defense is improving, and the offense is morphing into one of the best in the league.

Some big name players are gone now--John Abraham, Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson--so some others will have to step up to fill those voids. Atlanta has more than a handful of players who are about to fall into that "weakest link" group, and could be holding Atlanta back from reaching their ultimate goal.

Some of these players, whether due to injury or lack of playing time, haven't lived up to what the Falcons wanted out of them, and are going to have to (as they say in Atlanta) "Rise Up" and make a name for themselves to help bring this team along.

Here are five players who fall into this category, and that the Falcons will need to see a lot more of in 2013. If these five don't step it up and bring their A-game this year, they will be quickly replaced, possibly before the season even ends.

Here are the five current Atlanta Falcons who will have to "Rise Up" in 2013

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Tyson Clabo - Offensive Tackle

Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

It's actually a little strange to put Tyson Clabo on this list. He's been starting at right tackle for the Falcons since 2007, and had always done a decent enough job. But in 2012, Clabo looked less than average at a time when the offensive line was a group under the microscope in Atlanta. The Falcons need Clabo to return to form and keep that offensive line on the upswing.

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Antone Smith - Running Back

Josh D. Weiss - USA TODAY Sports

Michael Turner is gone, Jacquizz Rodgers is ready to step in, and who knows if the Falcons are going to hit the jackpot on a running back in free agency. Antone Smith has been re-signed by Atlanta, and the Florida State product should finally have an opportunity to prove he can be an integral part of Atlanta's running game. With the guys in the backfield under heavy scrutiny this year, anyone not pulling their weight will be riding the pine or gone in a hurry.

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Akeem Dent - Linebacker

Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports

When the Falcons lost middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to free agency in 2012, Akeem Dent was deemed the man to step in and take his place. Dent didn't play horribly, but he fell a little short of the expectations placed on him when the season began. Dent has had a full season of playing in the middle and should be acclimated to the position now. The coaching staff will look for him along with Sean Weatherspoon to double up as top pass and run defenders.

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Peria Jerry - Defensive Tackle

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

The biggest thing for DT Peria Jerry in 2013 - just stay healthy. The big man that the Falcons picked in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft has been plagued by injuries right from the start. Jerry got a chance at redemption in 2012 with the prolonged foot injury to starter Corey Peters, but still only managed to start nine games, and total 11 tackles on the season. If Jerry makes the team out of camp this year, it may be his last shot to prove his worth.

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Harry Douglas - Wide Receiver

Josh D. Weiss - USA TODAY Sports

WR Harry Douglas is another player who has had more than his share of injuries during his NFL career. Every year the Falcons talk about how Douglas and his speed are going to become a more prominent part of the offense, but yet he's still never managed more than one touchdown catch in a single season. Douglas needs to find his niche with Atlanta, whether it's being a Wes Welker type slot receiver, or just being the full time punt/kick returner (which the Falcons desperately need). It has to be tough being in the same group with guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones, but Douglas has to make the most of his chances.