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After two back to back disappointing seasons, something had to give. Mike Smith was showing signs of extreme complacency. Smith never had that go for the throat mentality, I'm not sure he ever will. After bringing the Falcons franchise back to relevancy though, many felt he was owed something - as if he could once again turn the franchise around. It was time for change though. Out with the old, in with the new. I, like many Falcons fans, am hugely excited with the possibilities of what Dan Quinn could very well bring to this team. The Offense With Kyle Shanahann joining Dan Quinns staff as the offensive coordinator, I expect this offense to be more efficient than we've seen in the past. Our past offensive schemes relied on running the football down the throat of opposing defenses and fooling the defenses with crossing route combinations in the air. As we all found out the past two seasons, running the football was not our strong suit. The Falcons often times failed to fool defenses, resulting in questionable interceptions, receivers running into each other like something you'd see in a AFV TV show, or the defenses just simply not being fooled at all. Shanahann knows how to stretch the football field, and that's by making sure the running game can move the football efficiently utilizing a zone blocking scheme. Through the Air: I think it's fair to say that barring any injury, we can expect Julio Jones to absolutely explode in this offense. Shanahann has made solid receivers look absolutely fantastic in the past. As many have already stated when Shanahann was first brought in, you can compare Julio Jones to Andre Johnson in this offense. The argument will obviously be made which receiver is more explosive, but let's not get into that here. Roddy White is going to play the safe and reliable option in this offense, but I don't think we need to expect anything less than 900 yards out of him as he hasn't seemed to have lost a step when healthy. It's also a very safe assumption, alright - a given - that Matt Ryan is easily the best quarterback Shanahann has had to work with to this point. I don't think there are any question marks on how Ryan will pick up this offense. By all accounts, this offense has every opportunity to be one of the best in the league through the air. One thing that everyone can attest to is that while Ryan is a great quarterback, there were times last season where he tried to put the game on his shoulders and showed a lot of inaccuracy in his play as a whole. This has to be improved on, or the Falcons could find themselves losing many close games once again. (This will also tie in with the defensive portion) There's a solid line of depth at the wide receiver position. Last season, the Falcons found a lot of different ways to utilize Devin Hesters speed and shiftiness and get him involved in the passing game. Unfortunately, what the Falcons also found with that was that he isn't a reliable option at receiver. He makes a lot of drops, and he often isn't where Matt Ryan has planned him to be. Knowing this, the Falcons did two things. The first is the signing of Leonard Hankerson. I actually like this signing. Hankerson, if nothing else, is a guy who knows Shanahanns system. He'll be useful on the practice field to the guys who are taking this offense in. He's obviously just depth at this point, but it's a good look. I believe Hankerson will be filtered in and see 30-45 catches this season pending how well he has recovered from his knee injury.The next move, it's a move to absolutely love. After last season, the Falcons decided it was time to part with slot receiver Harry Douglas. Although he made his fair share of drops that cost us quite a few games, he was a crucial cog to this offense. He took pressure off both Roddy and Julio with his speed and ability to make guys miss after the catch. The Falcons instead went another direction and took Justin Hardy in the fourth round of the draft. Hardy brings solid route running and sure hands to the Falcons slot receiver position. Adding Hardy to the mix should ease the loss of Douglas in the passing game. The tight end position leaves a lot to be desired. Levine Toilolo, a true monster TE standing at 6'7, hasn't developed into the pass catcher the Falcons hoped. What's worse is that he's not exactly a guy you want to block for you either. Bringing in Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki was a start, but I still don't feel confident in our group of tight ends when it comes to moving the sticks. Pounding the Rock: Shanahann has done wonders with average running backs in the past. In fact, he's turned guys who otherwise wouldn't have been given shots in the NFL into absolute stars at the games highest level. His zone blocking scheme will do wonders for an offensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league in run blocking, often times giving our running backs no opportunities to see the plus side of the line of scrimmage. Despite the raving about Devonta Freeman looking like a guy who could take the top spot, and Antone Smith showing a lot of explosiveness last season, the Falcons went out and drafted Tevin Coleman - a one cut bowling ball - in the 3rd round this year. Coleman is figuring to be the starting running back in a scheme that he should do extremely well for himself in. The bottom line in the run game though is that I'm not actually sure we have the correct personnel in the trenches to utilize the zone blocking scheme. Also make it noted that the Falcons let go long time left guard Justin Blalock who has been a staple on our line for a while now. While he was a big body that probably couldn't swing like the offense needed him to, I'm not sure anyone else on the roster will be able to fill that role. Perhaps Shanahann slides Sam Baker over to left guard? Who knows. The Falcons have a lot of work to do with the offensive line, and it all starts there. The Verdict: Expect big things out of the passing game this year, but don't expect this offense to replicate what we've seen out of the run games Shanahann has put in place in the past. The Falcons just don't have the talent among the offensive line to perform to those standards. The Defense Defensive coordinator Richard Smith has been in the NFL for a long time, 27 years to be exact. That's a lot of experience to work with and experience is something that's absolutely invaluable in any sports league. Smith has a lot of work to do with this defense, as they ranked last in nearly every category you can think of. While Smith is the defensive coordinator, I think Dan Quinn will have his hands dug in deep with the defense. Together, they should be able to put together a somewhat efficient 4-3 under that works more like a 5-2 defense (Like what Seattle had last year). Obviously, the talent level is far from what it was when he had the likes of Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett at the three stages of the defense. Either way anyone wants to look at the Falcons, the most positive way to think is that the only way to go is up in terms of production. The defense is going to rely heavily the ability to stop the run in nickel looks, which means only 3 big bodies with their hands in the dirt. Which makes the additions the Falcons made in the off-season even more so important to this defense. An excitable talent that was added in the draft is Grady Jarrett. One of the top defensive tackles in college football a short time ago, Jarrett saw his stock fall all the way to the 5th round because of his height. We've seen guys' stock fall due to height before and they've continued on their trail of success, this could very well be the case with Jarrett. The Falcons went out and brought in both Justin Durant and Brooks Reed to add some speed and run stopping ability to the linebacker core. The next move is one that will either pay huge dividends or be a move where the Falcons can cut their losses on a 1 year deal - Adrian Clayborn. The Clayborn addition is something I really love. While he's had trouble staying healthy and some even question how well he's transitioned to the pro game, when he's been healthy he has provided a solid amount of pressure to opposing offenses - something that the Falcons have absolutely missed since losing John Abraham a couple seasons ago. The Addition of Vic Beasley provides the Falcons with a strong pass rusher and play maker at the LEO position that Dan Quinn loves to utilize. Going anywhere else with their first round draft pick could have spelled disaster, but the Falcons went the safe route, and hope to have hit on a sack artist. Moving to the back end of the defense, we have some solid pieces at cornerback. Desmond Trufant has the looks of a guy who is on the verge of being one of the top corners in the league as he has shown improvement every time he's hit the field. Our #2 and #3 spots are where it gets dicey. Robert Alford and Jalen Collins will more than likely be in a tight battle for that #2 position as camps get underway. Both with a lot of raw athleticism and needing work on their technique, Collins may have the upper hand in the battle despite being a rookie. Collins has a lot of potential that can be groomed simply by getting him on the field. The safety position is a question mark as well. William Moore is the lock at strong safety, and it was thought that Dezmen Southward would be the starting free safety. This past week though, the coaching staff announced that Southward would be moving to cornerback for the upcoming season. Perhaps Kemal Ishmael, after flashing some serious playmaking ability last year filling in for Moore, will slide over to free safety and take the starting role there? Some have even questioned if maybe Jalen Collins could be tried at free safety with the athleticism he possesses and perhaps Quinn is trying to find a guy that can cover ground much like Earl Thomas in Seattle. (Not comparing, just trying to find a median). Either way you look at it, the free safety position may be a fun spot to watch, it's anyones guess right now. The Verdict: The Falcons defense may not show immediate improvements when the season begins, but I think by mid-season, they could be a top 15 unit. There is some talent on the drawing board, the coaching is going to have to take the forefront to get this unit up to speed. Projected Depth Chart following the draft: Offense: QB: Ryan | Yates | Renfree RBF: Coleman | Freeman | J. Smith RBC: A. Smith FB: DiMarco | Mooney WRX: Jones | Hankerson | Williams WRZ: White | Hester | Martino WRS: Hardy | Weems | Reedy TE: Tamme | Toilolo | Moeaki | Shuler RT: Schraeder | Holmes | Rodgers RG: Asamoah | Gunn | J. Smith C: Stone | Hawley | Konz LG: Baker | Person LT: Matthews | Baker Defense: LEO: Beasley | Biermann | Maponga LDE: Clayborn | Matthews | Goodman LDT/NT: Soliai | Babineaux | Jarrett RDT: Hageman | Jackson SAM: Reed | Shembo | Schofield WILL: Durant | Bartu | Spruill MIKE: Worrilow | Stupar | Bradford SS: Moore | Baker FS: Ishmael | Godfrey | King LCB: Trufant | Adams RCB: Alford | Southward | King NCB: Collins | Southward | King LS: Harris P: Bosher K: Bryant KR/PR: Hester | Weems The Falcons have a fresh feel and look to them as 2015 season approaches. The players are already starting to buy into Dan Quinn as the leader of this team, and they've added a lot of talent. For the first time in years, the Falcons seem to have hit a home run on the draft as a whole, if everything pans out, this could be a big turn around year for them. I feel like the Falcons have a chance to hit the 11-5 mark again if they can ease the growing pains on the offensive line, and work out any bugs the defense may have as the season begins.