3. The return to health of Harry Douglas: Aside from his nasty stiff arm, Harry Douglas showed loads of potential when he was drafted by the Falcons in 2008.
Come the 2009 offseason, Douglas tore his ACL and eliminated what would have been a very dangerous weapon for the Falcons.
Douglas’s dynamic speed allowed him to stretch the field and remove the eighth man from the box to create holes for Michael Turner and the ground game.
With Douglas’s injury, opposing teams did not have to respect the entire field when defending the Falcons and could commit eight men into the box to stop the run thus forcing Matt Ryan into third-and-long type situations.
With Douglas returning from injury, he could help take the Falcons’ offense to a whole other level.
4. Matt Ryan endured the “sophomore slump”: Alright…I cheated. While this really is not an off-season game-changing move, it is still significant.
Drafted out of Boston College in 2008, Matt Ryan exceeded all expectations, leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a postseason berth; all of this in the shadow of Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino.
His ability to perform under pressure like this earned him the nickname, “Matty Ice”
Prior to the ’09 season, there were rumblings that Matty Ice would suffer a sophomore slump, just as many players have done historically.
These pundits were not wrong. Ryan’s completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt, and passer rating all dipped by a significant margin in his second year with the Falcons; while he also threw three more interceptions in two fewer games during his second year.
With that out of the way, Matty Ice can build on his two years of experience in the league and develop into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
5. The failure of the Falcons to address the defensive line: While the first four moves on the list involved moves that were beneficial to the Falcons, this last one may prove to be the most important of them all.
As the 28th ranked pass defense, which only generated 28 sacks last season, only part of the blame can be placed upon the secondary.
In order for a pass defense to succeed, the pass rush must be sufficient enough to reach the quarterback prior to the time that the receiver can break away from the defender. However, if there is no pass rush, not even Darrelle Revis could hold down just an average receiver.
John Abraham had a disappointing season, recording only 5.5 sacks; one season after recording a career high 16.5 sacks in 2008.
That is the major difference between the 9-7 Falcons in 2009 and the 11-5 Falcons in 2008.
The Falcons are hoping that the 32 year old Abraham can become a dominant force along the defensive line once again in order to give the Falcons a chance at postseason contention.
Atlanta’s off-season was rather quiet, except for their major splash in free agency where they signed Dunta Robinson. They are hoping that a combination of all these moves, along with the health of the players, can propel this team to the postseason; where they can duel with the best of the NFC (New Orleans Saints) and possibly reach the Super Bowl.