By Andrew Schuster @ShootsMcGavin on June 11, 2014
The Atlanta Falcons are looking for a complete turn-around in 2014 in hopes of reclaiming the NFC South title. The talent is there, but a full team effort will be required in order to find success in a tough division. With the upcoming season just around the corner, let's go ahead and make five early predictions for Mike Smith's squad.
Desmond Trufant had a nice little rookie campaign last year. After the departure of Asante Samuel, Trufant is now listed at the Falcons' No.1 cornerback. The former first-round pick out of Washington has the potential to be a dominant pass defender in the NFL. I see him taking the next step and leading the team in interceptions in 2014. A Pro Bowl appearance in the near future is very possible for the young talent.
Jackson is looking to bounce back from one of the worst performances of his career. Injuries were an issue, but he managed to still play in 12 games. He averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per carry on 157 carries for 543 yards. He may have a better year in 2014, but as a 31-year-old (in July) running back, Jackson's best days are behind him.
Drafting Jake Matthews in the 2014 NFL Draft to help protect Matt Ryan was a no-brainer. Atlanta's quarterback was constantly under pressure, forcing him to make bad decisions with the ball. I think Matthews rises to the occasion and makes an immediate impact. He is one of the most talented tackles to enter the NFL in years. He's got everything you look for in an offensive lineman.
It's safe to say that Julio Jones is one of the NFL's most talented receivers. Unfortunately, he was unable to play for a majority of the 2013 season after fracturing his foot, but he will indeed bounce back this year. The absence of Tony Gonzales will result in more targets for Jones, so finishing at the top of the league in yards and touchdowns is a likely scenario.
After an awful performance by the offensive line and the absence of Julio Jones, Matt Ryan was still able to pass for over 4,500 yards last year. Ryan becoming a 5,000 yard quarterback is very realistic. With healthy receivers and an improved line, I believe he will take that next step in 2014.
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