5 Atlanta Falcons Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future
5 Atlanta Falcons Who Mean the Most to the Team's Future
The Atlanta Falcons were one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL in 2013. With mostly the same pieces that led the team to an NFC Championship game berth, the Falcons stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2013. While injuries took their toll on the 2013 roster, there was a silver lining in these injuries. For each player that went down, a younger player stepped up and showed what they could do.
The Falcons have invested very well in their high powered offense in recent years. The drafting of QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones gives the team a very explosive passing attack. On defense, the same cannot be said as several young prospects have not been able to produce like their offensive counterparts. The Falcons, like every other NFL team, will try to rectify their roster through free agency and the draft, but there are some intriguing pieces already on the roster who could affect the future of the Falcons in the next coming years.
Those who appear on my list of the top five players who will most affect the future of the Falcons will not be among the big-name players. Names like Ryan or Jones did not qualify for this list; instead, these are players who had solid seasons in 2013 and with an added dose of luck could turn the Falcons' fortunes around in 2014.
Plenty of players could have made this list. Receiver Harry Douglas had a breakout 2013, but he was already a big-name player so he did not qualify for the list. Defensive players like Sean Weatherspoon and Thomas Decoud also have already established themselves in the league, thereby eliminating them from this discussion.
The five Falcons on this list are the players who will have the biggest impact on the team's success or failure over the next two or three seasons. A few of these players are replacements for players who are currently injured or have retired while the rest of the list is filled with players who are looking to bounce back after bad 2013 seasons. These five will determine if the Falcons continue their struggles in 2013 or bounce back to their magical 2012 season.
5. Drew Davis
With Atlanta's receiving corps decimated last season with injuries to Jones and Roddy White, Drew Davis stepped in and did a good job on a struggling offense.
With White slowing down and in a free agent year along with Douglas just being a slot receiver, Davis has the potential to be another big outside target for Ryan.
4. Levine Toilolo
With future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez retiring this summer, Levine Toilolo is the next man up in Atlanta. Toilolo's 6-foot-8 frame will be asked to be the key middle of the field component for an explosive passing offense.
With more playing time, Toilolo will improve on his 11 catches and two touchdowns as a rookie. His potential will dictate just how good the Falcons' passing offense can be in 2014.
3. Robert Alford
The Falcons' secondary was one of the many reasons why the defense failed to produce like they did in 2012. Most of this was due to inexperience in the secondary with rookies Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant taking a majority of the snaps.
With Asante Samuel's release weeks ago, Alford will be expected to start and produce better than his two interception performance in 2013. In order to keep up in the division with high powered offenses in the Carolina Panthers and NewNew Orleans Saints, Alford and the young Falcon defensive backs will have to validate their draft status in 2014.
2. Paul Worrilow
After being pretty much a nobody to start the season, linebacker Paul Worrilow was one of the leading tacklers on a depleted Falcons defense. Worrilow was the leading tackler for the Falcons with 147 combined tackles. If the Falcons' defense is going to get back to the defense we know they can be, Worrilow will be one of the main players.
With Weatherspoon expected to be back to 100 percent in 2014 along with the emergence of fellow linebacker Joplo Bartu, the Falcons' young linebacking corps will dictate their defensive performance in 2014.
1. Lamar Holmes
Right tackle Lamar Holmes made 15 starts in 2013. After starting at right tackle, injuries forced Holmes to transition to left tackle where he predictably struggled.
To revive a struggling offense, Holmes and the rest of the offensive line will have to both run block better and protect Ryan better to get back to the days of 2012 instead of 2013. Holmes was not the only offensive lineman to struggle as Peter Konz was also rated among the worst in the league. Players like Holmes and Konz will have to step up big time or else Ryan will be the next injured superstar for the Falcons.