Poll: Is Falcons’ biggest concern D-line, O-line, running back?

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, left, who has the NFL career record for quarterback sacks, works with Falcons defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins during an NFL football team practice in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

I’ve posted a column on MyAJC.com on the Falcons’ running game and their decision to rely on second-year pro Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman. You can read the column by clicking here.

I believe the Falcons can win nine or 10 games this season, based partly on the fact that they’re in a weak division. But they have significant areas of concern. Here are six, in the order I consider the most important. You can comment below and vote for what you believe is the No. 1 concern:

1. Defensive line/pass rush: Coach Dan Quinn started out as a defensive line coach and the pass rush is such a focus in this training camp that: 1) He spends more time with that group than any other; 2) Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, the career sacks leader, has watched practices the last two days and shared his thoughts with coaches. So those are two positives. The lack of an obvious sack man is concerning. The team is depending heavily on rookie Vic Beasley, second-year lineman Ra’Shede Hageman and SIGNIFICANT (I felt the need to use all CAPS) improvement from Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai.

2. Offensive line: It probably has been the most talked about area in the last few seasons. Health has been a major problem. Left tackle Jake Matthews, more than anybody else, needs to play 16 games. I believe the line overall will be better and the zone blocking scheme will work for this group, even if it won’t rank as one of the stronger lines in the league.

3. Running backs: The decision to cut Steven Jackson was expected. The question is whether the follow-up strategy to go with Freeman, Coleman and Antone Smith will work out. The Falcons think this will work. I’m not sure how much they really believe that or whether they just don’t feel the need to prioritize the position compared to other areas on the team.

4. Secondary: Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford and strong safety William Moore are fine. The danger zone is at free safety and nickel. Ricardo Allen likely will win the safety job. The Falcons finished last in pass defense a year ago, but that was party the result of injuries and the absence of a pass rush.

5. Linebackers: Newcomers include Brooks Reed, Justin Durant and O’Brien Schofield. The fact there has been so much change should tell you something.

6. Third receiver/tight end: The Falcons lost Tony Gonzalez to retirement last year and No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas to free agency. Having Julio Jones and Roddy White puts them ahead of most teams in receiving corps but a significant third option is needed and I’m not sure Devin Hester qualifies. No. 1 on the tight end depth chart: veteran Jacob Tamme, who has played for Indianapolis and Denver but had only 14 catches last year with the Broncos.

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, left, who has the NFL career record for quarterback sacks, works with Falcons defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins during an NFL football team practice in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, left, who has the NFL career record for quarterback sacks, works with Falcons defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins during an NFL football team practice in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

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Reader Comments 0

82 comments
HaiL_Trump!
HaiL_Trump!

No mention of there week arm Qb Rayan? @ me thats the bigest porlbem. 

kevkat
kevkat

Every team has a significant issue somewhere, what's the big deal. You have a new coach, new system and even with all areas pretty much in good shape, you'll still have some issues because of this. Tired of hearing every negative or perceived negative pointed out by your local sports writers. Say something positive for a change.  Guess you have to find something to write about though to keep a job.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@kevkat

ZERO championship during the team's ENTIRE half-century of existence, dolt! 

That's NOT a "perceived" negative.

reckingball
reckingball

The biggest worry for the Falcons is and  has been for years, the OLine. And not too much of anything seems to ever be done about it. To be fair the Falcons OLine was performing pretty good at the first of the 2014, before so many of them were hurt and lost for the entire or most of the season.

RogerBurke
RogerBurke

When falcons were sucessful they have a good running game and that's not been the case since last 3-4 yrs

JSSN
JSSN

@RogerBurke

It's been more than 4, it was actually 2010. the Falcons had to put up 497, 453, and 480 plus rush attempts to get their 1,800 yards per season in 2009, 2010 and 2011. That was ridiculous. There's no secret why none of those backs except Rodgers are still in the League.

PeterCrawford
PeterCrawford

My biggest concern is not listed and that is Strength and Conditioning Coach. Since AJ Neibel took over we have been unable to stay healthy.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

O line.  A good o-line can boost a mediocre RB and keep the D line off the field.

Wreck13
Wreck13

So JEFF SCHULTZ I guess the LIVE game blogs for the Dog games will be on the MuttCounty blog? Is anything you and Mark write about the Mutts going to be under the MuttCounty blog so nobody will read it or comment on it? 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Wreck13

Been wondering the same thing.

It's a valid question, which means we likely will get no response, although I hope I'm wrong about that.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

@Wreck13 I think everything Georgia-related will go to new site, if that answers your question, kind sir.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@jschultz @Wreck13

Certainly not the answer I hoped to see, but at least it's an answer. Thanks for responding.

JSSN
JSSN

@jschultz

My AJC Blog life just got immensely better! 

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

Average talent for the O-line can make this zone blocking system work. The skills that have to be applied are different from typical blocking schemes. Alex Gibbs once said that he would not draft a lineman higher than the 3rd round. A running back that can be even a reasonable facsimile of Warrick Dunn would be a big plus.

Andrew Perry
Andrew Perry

The Falcons biggest problem is negative media ,, gtfoh,, let them play . If you dont like the team pull for someone else

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Andrew Perry

Yeah, that's the ticket! It's all the media's fault that the team has failed to win a championship during its entire half-century of existence.

Are you sure you don't want to save some blame for those bad ol' "negative nancies" in the team's long-suffering fanbase?

Oneydjax
Oneydjax

The best defense is a great offense! Keep the defense off the field by running the ball. Our biggest need is the offensive line. Let the defense rest and they'll be better and no opposing offense can score if we control the ball and beat them with time of possession.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

If Yates is the backup and has to play, the season is a complete loss.  If the running game is "1 yard and a cloud of astro-dust," then the O-line (healthy or not) will eventually lead to Matt Ryan missing lots of games.  If the D-line plays like the dolphins (the fish, not the NFL team in Miami), then their flippers will still stop no one behind or at the line of scrimmage.  If the D-backs continue to fall asleep and allow 3rd and 18+ to turn into a fresh set of downs for the opponents, then the spirit of the whole D will break and everyone will mail it in each week (from week 8 on).  If Julio Jones gets turf toe and misses many games, then the team will face many blow-out losses.  Finally, without the piped in crowd noise, the only cheering will be made by fans for visiting teams.  While I agree the team COULD win 9-10 games, I also agree that aliens from outer space COULD take over the planet and make pro ball a pastime unavailable for their caged food sources.  It is more likely, however, to see the Atlanta Falcons win 3 games, with Arthur Blank weekly giving his endorsement of Coach Dan

cshudson24
cshudson24

First, I enjoy watching the Falcons on Sunday. However, I am NEVER concerned about their weaknesses. It's out of my hands. Everyone takes this game WAY to seriously. I am concerned about real problems in my life. Like putting food on my table, making sure my wife is healthy and happy.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@cshudson24 During the course of her life, your wife's health and happiness will likely rise n fall, the Atlanta Falcons conversely will probably always suck when it counts.


It matters, whether you think it does or not. In many respects Atlanta's pro sports teams are the national face of the city, and they have traditionally been terrible embarrassments.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@cshudson24

With all your concern about life's "real problems," you probably shouldn't be wasting your time (and ours) commenting on sports blogs.

Dman
Dman

My biggest concern is the Personal Seat Liscens that we are being forced to buy in order to buy the right to purchase season tickets. Friday night I asked everyone who has been sitting around me for years, "who bought the new PSL's?" and no one said they could afford it yet the marketing people claim that they have sold almost 50% of the seats in our section. I even asked people in other areas in my section and I couldn't find anyone who bought them. It became a joke where everybody started asking everyone the same question and no one said they bought them so who are these 50% of people? Not the current Falcon fans who have had season tickets for many years.

Dman
Dman

My second concern is the O-Line. They didn't open any holes Friday night but they did protect Ryan.

HonestInformed
HonestInformed

1. offensive line 2. corners & safeties 3. linebackers 4. d-line 5. running backs 6. receiver/tight end.


The OBVIOUS answer is OL.


I would put Dimitrof at #2, but he was not one of the options listed.

mdet
mdet

Jake Matthews is way overrated.

HonestInformed
HonestInformed

@mdet  He played injured for many games last season...........he was STILL the best OL (maybe second best after Asamoah) we had on the team!

loel
loel

what ever happened to their top LB out with injury last year,,,, see there I have already forgot his name.???? 


HonestInformed
HonestInformed

@loel  Weatherspoon......he signed with Arizona as a free agent AFTER Atlanta treated him like a KING and was more than gracious during his injury plagued stint!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JSSN
JSSN

@DawgNole

Spoon has already hurt his Hamstring again. Be glad he's gone!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@JSSN @DawgNole

I am. Just figured he'd shine somewhere else, as so many ex-ATL players do. He's clearly injury-prone--especially in light of that hamstring you cited--like Gurley, unfortunately.

RickDDay
RickDDay

The biggest problem the Falcons have now is DLed.


This guy is a clown, can't write any better than a 15 year old and is an embarrassment to the team, this billionaire's rag, and the city.


Can't you like promote him up and way from public exposure or anything?

JohnBuck2
JohnBuck2

So basically everything but wide receiver and qb.

Intruder
Intruder

None of the above. It is Quinn.

Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

They've severely miscalculated at DL, OL and RB so what else is new?    The secondary still doesnt have a Stud Safety so its lacking as well.  No real TE threat either but I agree with ranking that the least significant need.

Hairy Dawg
Hairy Dawg

The big problem is the running game. Running game help with blocking to make OL aggressives not backpedal for passing. And running help play action legit and draw to slow down pass rush that LBs got to respect assingments.

Plus running game keep chain movbing and burn clock and that helps rest D just like Seattle does in Beastmode. But Falcons had available RB to fix running game in Gurely but they took Beasley insteads. Beasly may do it OK but he not like big time sacker to change game.

Jupiter_Jim
Jupiter_Jim

@Hairy Dawg Gurley won't go anywhere without holes.  Fans seem to forget about the O-Line at UGA.  Plug a RB in there and he'll be successful.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@PalmBeachFalcon @Hairy Dawg

Plus, Gurley is injury-prone--and unless something's changed recently, he still has no specific timetable for returning to the field following his knee injury last November.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@PalmBeachFalcon @DawgNole @Hairy Dawg

Well, glad to hear he was able to run onto the field, and that he didn't get punched--in the face or the knee.

The question remains: Will he be running for the Rams when the season starts?

JSSN
JSSN

@DawgNole

He's gonna start the year on PUP eligible after 6 games to be assessed on the 53-man roster.

Mandingo
Mandingo

The Falcons biggest concern is always trying to turn a profit for the owner ( which is guaranteed to happen based on how the cash - cow  NFL is set up) instead of building a quality franchise that is a reflection of the owner and head coaches philosophy and value systems. The Falcons can't win on a consistent basis  and establish a winning tradition in the Georgia Dome so you spend billions to build them a new stadium ????????? The best thing that could ever happen is if the Falcons moved on to another market and Atlanta was able to stat anew with a another franchise that came in.