5 Atlanta Falcons Players Who Need to Perform Well in 2013

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5 Atlanta Falcons Who Need to Produce

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons fell short of their ultimate goal of a Super Bowl in 2012. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White made one of the most lethal combinations in the passing game in the entire league. Oh, and you can't forget the ageless wonder, Tony Gonzalez.

Gonzalez announced before the playoffs that the 2012 season would be his last, but that declaration didn't last very long as the star tight end decided to give the NFL one more sparkling season.

They owned one of the best passing offenses in the league while showcasing one of the worst run games. Michael Turner wasn't cutting it for Atlanta's offense and changes had to be made. Enter: Steven Jackson.

Jackson has been a great running back in this league for years, leading St. Louis' offense for the past few seasons. He will look to take the Falcon offense from a pass-first mentality to a more balanced attack

While the addition of Jackson might seem huge, there are still a handful of guys that need big seasons in 2013 to prove that they belong with the team for the long-run.

After starting the season 8-0 last year, the Falcons looked unbeatable and on the fast-track to a Super Bowl appearance. They still lacked the kind of respect other top teams garnered across the league.

With an improved defense and a solid rushing attack, the Falcons could be one of the scariest teams in football in 2013.

However, they will need more guys to step up in order for that to happen. Here are five players who face make-or-break seasons in 2013.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Harry Douglas

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas looks to be a solid No. 3 receiver for the Falcons in 2013, but it's all up to him on how successful he will be. It's going to take a lot of work to get some touches with guys like White, Jones and Gonzalez as primary options for Matt Ryan. If Douglas can have an improved 2013 season with about 500 yards, he could be somewhat of a staple for the future.

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Akeem Dent

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Akeem Dent is a hard-worker who has been listed as the No. 1 middle linebacker on the current Atlanta roster. However, he had only 65 tackles a season ago in split time and will need to improve on that mark if he wants to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL. I think he has the skills to do it, and he just needs to put it all together.

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Jonathan Babineaux

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Babineaux is a nine-year veteran defensive tackle that has seen his career go from promising to average and then back to promising in 2012. He became one of the league's surprises after he saw his numbers spike a bit from his previous two seasons in Atlanta. He needs to keep that up or he could be shown the door sooner rather than later.

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Osi Umenyiora

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting a couple defensive ends in the 2013 NFL Draft may be just what new-Falcon Osi Umenyiora needs to get motivated into producing like he has been capable of throughout his career. His previous team, the New York Giants, saw Umenyiora rack up more than 11 sacks in a season three times in his career. Although he is aging quickly, he has the ability to approach eight still. He may need a season like that to stick around for a while.

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Steven Jackson

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Eight-time 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson has been given a new life by being traded to a contender. He has been given the chance to resurrect this failing run game and put the team's rushing duties on his shoulders while taking the young Jacquizz Rodgers under his wing. He has had eight straight seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing, and if he can make it nine, he will be a part of the Falcons' backfield for the next couple of years.


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