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The 2019 Atlanta Falcons have a lot to prove after their disappointing 2018, which started slow and never had a chance when the injury bug began taking their starters off the field for the rest of the season.
Atlanta’s front office has made some offseason moves that would indicate they do understand exactly where they came up short last year, and they used the draft and free agency to fill those offensive and defensive holes and to add roster depth.
If these Falcons, led by veteran All-Pro quarterback (and former NFL MVP) Matt Ryan, can stay healthy, they’ve got enough talent to see the postseason again, and here we take a look at some of these critical offseason moves they have made as well as the odds and predictions of their 2019 season.
Looking for more offseason predictions and odds? Then take a look at the “Biggest Offseason Moves 2019” of Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs.
The 2018 Atlanta Falcons started the season 1-4, then posted a disappointing 7-9 final record and missed postseason play after going to the playoffs the two prior seasons, including to Super Bowl LI at the end of the 2016-17 season where they almost beat the New England Patriots in a 28-34 overtime loss.
A big factor in the Falcons’ downfall in 2018 was the inability to stay healthy, having lost seven of their starters to season-ending injuries, including linebacker Deion Jones (foot), strong safety Keanu Neal (knee) and guard Andy Levitre (torn triceps).
Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan had an impressive year, ranked third among NFL quarterbacks after completing 422 passes for 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions, and that’s despite being sacked a total of 42 times.
From the looks of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s two first-round selections, the Falcons’ main drafting strategy this offseason was to protect Ryan better by selecting guard Chris Lindstrom and offensive tackle Kaleb McGary, both projected to be immediate starters.
Dimitroff also signed the giant free agent guard James Carpenter, formerly of the New York Jets, essentially gutting and replacing three-fifths of the offensive line, giving newly hired offensive coordinator Kirk Koetter a brand new squad to mold however he sees fit.
Also acquired in free agency were defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who should help the Falcons’ against the run after being ranked 25th in that category last season
After the disappointing results of last season, the Falcons’ front office did a clean sweep of the team’s leadership and fired the offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators.
The offense had regressed under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, so the Falcons brought in the recently fired head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dirk Koetter, to fill the role since he has vast amounts of experience, having previously done that job for three other NFL teams.
Ben Kotwica has been named the special teams coordinator after spending the last five seasons doing that same job for the Washington Redskins.
Head Coach Dan Quinn, a former defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, will handle those duties this season and do his best to improve on the 28th ranked Falcons defense.
Place-kicker Matt Bryant, who was released by the Falcons in February after ten seasons.
Kicking now for Atlanta will be Giorgio Tavecchio, who played in three games for the Falcons in 2018, making all five of the field goals he attempted, his longest being a 56-yarder, and converting every one of the 8 extra points he attempted.
Running back Tevin Coleman, who signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for $8.5 million, with $5.25 million of that money guaranteed.
Defensive end Bruce Irvin, who signed a one-year contract worth up to $4 million, with $1.5 million of that fully guaranteed.
Offensive guard James Carpenter, who signed a four-year, $21 million contract with $8.25 million of that money guaranteed.
Offensive guard Jamon Brown, who signed a three-year deal worth $18.75 million, with $12.75 million of that guaranteed.
Tight end/fullback Luke Stocker, who agreed to a two-year, $5.5 million deal with $1.5 million of that guaranteed.
Offense: Tackle, guard
Defense: Edge rusher, tackle, cornerback, linebacker
The Falcons ended up with 7 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they were:
Over the last decade, the Atlanta Falcons have been to the playoffs five times, including Super Bowl LI, where they lost to the New England Patriots 28-34 in overtime when Patriots running back James White became unstoppable in the second half.
Of the other four postseason appearances, the Falcons lost in the Divisional Playoffs twice (2010, 2017), lost in the Wild Card game in 2011 and in the Conference Championship in 2012.
The only other time the Atlanta Falcons have been to the Big Game was in 1998 under Coach of the Year Dan Reeves when they lost to the Denver Broncos and MVP quarterback John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII by a lopsided score of 19-34.
According to the oddsmakers, the 2019 Atlanta Falcons are going to be second to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and tied with the Seattle Seahawks as the eighth most likely team to win the NFC Championship.
And the Saints will most likely win their division so it will be up to the Falcons to notch enough wins on their belt to qualify for one of those two NFL Wild Card spots available.
But Atlanta will be fighting not just the Seahawks for that privilege but also the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles, both fully recharged and upgraded after this offseason.
Will injuries continue to haunt the Atlanta Falcons this season, or will they adjust their pre-season conditioning and maybe successfully cross their fingers for good luck this time around?
Can the 33-year old Matt Ryan have another 4,000+ season (he has had eight so far) and join the pack of elderly quarterbacks who are currently proving age-related historical precedence wrong?
Is the revamped offensive line an upgrade over last season’s squad who allowed Ryan to get sacked 42 times?
Did General manager Dimitroff do enough this offseason to improve a Falcons defense ranked 28th last year?
Those are a lot of questions for head coach Dann Quinn to answer in his fifth season with the Falcons, but he’s been to the promised land before with this team, and chances are he’s going to figure out a way to get the Falcons back there again sometime soon.
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