By Andrew Schuster @ShootsMcGavin on May 28, 2014
The Atlanta Falcons will be looking to bounce back from an awful 2013 performance. Injuries were an issue, but 2014 is a new year. Organized team activities are an excellent way to get a glimpse of your team before heading into the new season, so here are five storylines to follow as Falcons OTAs get underway.
The Falcons' offensive line did a horrible job at protecting their star quarterback last year, which made drafting Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft a no-brainer. It will be tough for Atlanta to compete in the NFC South without the proper quarterback protection, so keep an eye on Matthews. He's got the ability to make a difference and have a huge rookie campaign.
Atlanta made a nice little splash in the free agent market by signing on Devin Hester. He is arguably the greatest return man of all time, but the speedster was never really a factor on the offensive side of the ball while in Chicago. Having him on the field with the other star receivers and QB Matt Ryan could mean big things for the Falcons, so let's see how much coach Mike Smith works him out with the offense.
WR Roddy White is set to miss the first week of OTAs, if not more, due to the tragic murder of his younger brother. He is back home in South Carolina with his family coping with the loss. There is no time frame for how long it will take somebody grieve, but White will need to get back to work at some point. His mindset on the field will be something to follow during OTAs, but support from his teammates should help.
The Falcons thought they went all-in when they signed RB Steven Jackson last year. Unfortunately, after missing weeks 3-7 due to injury, he never seemed to be at 100 percent after that. Jackson averaged a career-low 3.5 yards on the ground, rushing for only 543 in all of 2013. He looks to be back at it in 2014, but at 30 years old (31 in July), his durability will be something to keep an eye on.
Atlanta's star receiver played in just five games last year before suffering a season ending foot injury. Julio Jones looks to bounce back, but his health and participation in certain team activities will be something to monitor over the next few weeks. Atlanta can't afford to have something happen to their Pro-Bowl wideout again.
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