By Andrew Schuster @ShootsMcGavin on June 4, 2014
The Atlanta Falcons look to turn it around this year after a poor performance in 2013. With that in mind, let's look at five things Mike Smith's team must accomplish during OTAs in order to improve their game.
Julio Jones missed a majority of the 2013 season with a fractured foot and Roddy White has been troubled with injures on and off over the past few years. They are both familiar with the playbook, so making sure that they aren't overworked may be something to keep an eye on. When both Jones and White are on the field together, Atlanta has one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFL. Keeping them healthy is a must during OTAs.
After the departure of Dunta Robinson in 2013 and the release of Asante Samuel and Thomas DeCoud this offseason, it's time for the new guys to step it up. The door is open for promising second-year CB Desmond Trufant. FS Dwight Lowery was signed on to fill DeCoud's role. The Falcons' secondary definitely has the talent, but making sure they are prepared is a must. Since the 2014 NFL Draft, a handful of new receivers have joined the NFC South.
With Tony Gonzales gone to retirement, the starting tight end spot is open for competition. Levine Toilolo was drafted last year and looks to be the frontrunner, but Mickey Shuler, Andrew Szczerba, Bear Poscoe and Jacob Pedersen are all candidates to see a bulk of the action. The Falcons may use a three-headed unit like they did before the Gonzales days, but Atlanta will still need to determine its go-to guy.
Steven Jackson will be 31 next month and he's coming off the biggest let-down season of his career. Health was an issue, so the Falcons will need to look for a backup plan in case he goes down again. Jacquizz Rodgers serves as a decent No. 2 and rookie Devonta Freeman looks to make his case during OTAs and training camp as well. The Falcons will need a solid run game in order to take pressure off of QB Matt Ryan.
Let's face it, the Falcons did an awful job at protecting their Pro-Bowl quarterback last year. If they want to find success against the Saints' and Panthers' pass rush, Matt Ryan is going to need all the help he can get. A nice little defense is on the rise in Tampa Bay as well. Drafting OT Jake Matthews was the first step, but some extra work will need to be done this summer in order to make that protection a guarantee.
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