By Brandon Daniel @Brandon_Rant on June 5, 2014
The Atlanta Falcons unexpectedly struggled in 2013, falling to 4-12 in a year they were thought to be Super Bowl contenders. This offseason saw the front office and coaching staff complete a major overhaul of the roster on both sides of the ball. With a lot of new faces and some old faces inheriting starting roles, which players carry the most intrigue headed into the 2014 season?
All the talk last year was about fellow rookie Desmond Trufant, but Alford had a solid season as well. It was enough to convince the Falcons they could part ways with veteran Asante Samuel. This will be the chance Alford has to prove he and Trufant can be a formidable tandem for years to come. His progression and ability to handle a full-time starter's role on the outside will be something to watch in 2014.
Much of the talk this offseason centered around replacing Tony Gonzalez and many had the Falcons taking a tight end high in the draft. But the front office only added minor pieces, choosing to move forward with Toilolo as the starter. Gonzalez had high praise for the young TE last year, and the coaching staff may be underselling going into 2014. The Falcons may not have a Gonzalez clone, but I think they’ve got their starter for the next decade.
The Falcons cut the inconsistent Thomas DeCoud this offseason and took Southward in the third round of the draft. Most scouts say he is a raw player, but the Falcons took a risk because of his freakish numbers and physical ability. He is a classic boom or bust player, and it will be interesting to see how much he can pick up. If Southward can play well enough to beat out Dwight Lowery, he could be fun to watch in 2014.
Atlanta took the smallish Florida State product in the fourth round. and he’s received high praise from coaches so far in OTAs. He’s quick, can catch the ball out of the backfield and has the ability to run between the tackles. Steven Jackson will be the starter to begin the season, but it will be worth watching to see how much playing time Freeman can earn and if he can steal some carries away from the aging Jackson.
One of the greatest needs most believed the Falcons had to address this offseason was an edge rusher to get to the quarterback. They didn’t address it until later in the draft, which means the onus is going to be on Massaquoi to be the player the coaches and front office obviously believe he can be. Someone has to be the guy to keep opposing QBs up at night. Massaquoi has shown flashes, and all eyes will be on him to be that guy in 2014.
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