The 2015 Atlanta Falcons started out strong, winning five straight to begin the season, six of the first seven. However the team faltered in the second half, and ultimately finished 8-8. It was another season on the outside looking in come the playoffs. The Falcons now look ahead to 2016, and with training camp just around the corner, here are some predictions for what to expect.
Atlanta Falcons Training Camp & Season Predictions for 2016
Devin Hester will be released
With little experience after the top two on the depth chart, the Falcons could elect to hold onto Hester, but it would be very surprising if the legendary returner was wearing red and black for Week One. Running back Tevin Coleman was fielding kickoffs during OTA’s and the team added the speedy Aldrick Robinson from the Washington Redskins; someone who could steal the fourth wide receiver spot and return job away from the 33-year-old former Bear. Don’t discount 7th round pick Devin Fuller, out of UCLA, either.
Rookies Deion Jones and DeVondre Campbell will win starting linebacker spots
Paul Worrilow, Sean Weatherspoon and Philip Wheeler aren’t in Atlanta’s long-term plans. While the team’s sustained success will rely on young players like Jones and Campbell. Dan Quinn wants to see the young guns develop and for that to happen they need to be on the field.
Akeem King will become the team’s cornerback in nickel formation across from Desmond Trufant
Jalen Collins being suspended for the first quarter of the season only solidifies King‘s case as he could beat out Collins in training camp anyway. Collins will have to work extra hard to earn his snaps once eligible to rejoin his team on game days.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a rotation on the interior of the O-line to kick-off the season
Chris Chester and Andy Levitre certainly have their flaws and Mike Person has to be a better guard than he was center. Throw in 6th-round pick Wes Schweitzer and the Falcons have some solid internal competition.
The offense will be much better in 2016
Mack was not long ago regarded as far and away the league’s best center, Sanu is without a doubt better than Leonard Hankerson and Roddy White at this point in their careers, and Hooper gives the Falcons an element they haven’t had since the early days of Tony Gonzalez as a Dirty Bird. Hooper is an all-around athlete with the speed and toughness to make an impact immediately. He also knows how to find the seam and exploit coverage. Hooper and Ryan should quickly develop chemistry on third-downs and in the red-zone.
“He is going to be one of the best number 2’s in this league.”
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) June 22, 2016
The run game will be even better
With the aforementioned addition of Alex Mack, the entire offensive line sees it’s stock rise. Left tackle Jake Matthews will take another step in his development, as will right tackle Ryan Schreader. Everybody remembers Freeman’s outstanding few weeks where he was the most dangerous back in the league, but many point to him running out of gas as the season went on, unable to maintain his ferocious style of play. With said improved line, a hopefully more dependable Coleman and a well managed snap-count Freeman should be a consistent, above-average performer.