The Atlanta Falcons have delved deep into solving their offensive and defensive line issues early with their recent free agency signings. Both were a key weakness all season long and needed to be resolved before the new football season kicks off to have a fighting chance in the NFC South Division. As discussed before in the NFL Draft Daily’s article about possibilities with their first round pick, we have Jake Matthews being drafted; which resolves the open left tackle position that Atlanta desperately needs to fill to protect their young franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan. To help the Falcons rectify other offensive line positions, they went out and signed former Kansas City Chiefs guard, Jon Asamoah. Atlanta also opted to bolster their defensive line with the signings of nose tackle, Paul Soliai; and forking out five million dollars a year to sign defensive end, Tyson Jackson.
The Falcons need to now focus on their empty spot at tight end with Tony Gonzalez retiring; and looking for some back-end help on defense after the decided to release former pro bowl safety Thomas Decoud and starting corner Asante Samuel. With the need of needing a good coverage safety, the possibility of either Chris Clemons or Champ Bailey joining the team is ideal. Clemons does not have the best hands in coverage but he was rated as one of the best coverage safeties only allowing two touchdowns thrown towards him all year; its very surprising a player of his quality is still available. Champ Bailey has been considered one of the best corners of his generation but a drop off in production and injury concerns has teams curious of whether Bailey can still peform at a high level. Champ Bailey has said that he would be willing to move to safety if necessary and that is probably where the Falcons would consider using the veteran if they decided to sign him.
Depth at running back would be nice with Steven Jackson’s injury issues last year, and they could also look into someone like Jermichael Finley at tight end if the price is right. A real issue needing to be addressed is their pass rush. Neither newly acquired Paul Soliai or Tyson Jackson are known to create pressure on the quarterback so edge rushers are a cause for concern. The Falcons may address the need in the draft with a few outside linebackers like Ryan Shazier or Kyle Van Noy available but proven rushers are still on the market and could be bought for the right price. Shaun Phillips and Jared Allen are two of the top pass rushers still available, with the Falcons switching to a 3-4 defense; Phillips has the most experience in that position with Jared Allen usually playing the prototypical 4-3 defensive end position.
With all that being said if Atlanta plans on contending in this division they will need to create a solid pass rush to get to the highly successful quarterbacks in the NFC South. Cam Newton and Drew Brees will exploit every opportunity given to them to repeat their appearances in the playoffs from the year before. The Falcons keys to simple success are to create reliable protection for Matt Ryan, and assemble a consistent pass rush with their new 3-4 defensive scheme. If they can accomplish those simply things the Falcons may be able to once again repeat as division champions and take over as the top team in their division.
NFL Draft Daily is a daily series which provides analysis, insight, and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman