The Atlanta Falcons finally got their first playoff win under coach Mike Smith and with quarterback Matt Ryan in 2012. The NFC South champions went 13-3, securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. But their Super Bowl aspirations came up short when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
The Falcons once again wielded one of the best passing attacks in the league, but their running game and pass rushing left much to be desired. They made moves to address these weaknesses, but will the new talent be enough to get the team over the playoff hump? Let's have a look.
Running back Michael Turner fell off a cliff in 2012, getting just 3.6 yards per carry and looking like a shell of himself. The Falcons think they got a big upgrade on Turner, signing Steven Jackson away from the Rams. Jackson has long carried the Rams' offense, but this is by far the best supporting cast he will have in his career. On the offensive line, right tackle Tyson Clabo was released and center Todd McClure retired, leaving a handful of positions up for grabs in camp.
On defense, the team released John Abraham and signed Osi Umenyiora, hoping to improve on its 29 sacks from last year. Atlanta drafted cornerback Desmond Trufant in the first round to pair with Asante Samuel and upgrade a secondary that allowed the 10th-most passing yards in the league.
Training camp schedule and location
The Falcons will be training at team headquarters in Flowery Beach for the ninth year in a row. Thirteen practice dates will be open to the public, including the annual Friday Night Lights scrimmage held in Gainesville, Ga. on Aug. 2. The team will hold combined practice sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 5 and 6. Camp will wrap up shortly before the second preseason game.
Here's the complete schedule from the Falcons' official website:
|Thursday, July 25||Practice, 3:30-5:50 p.m.|
|Friday, July 26||Practice, 3:30-5:50 p.m.|
|Saturday, July 27||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Sunday, July 28||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Monday, July 29||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Tuesday, July 30||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Wednesday, July 31||Player day off|
|Thursday, August 1||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Friday, August 2||Friday Night Lights scrimmage, 6:45-9:10 p.m.|
|Saturday, August 3||Player day off|
|Sunday, August 4||Practice, 3:30-6 p.m.|
|Monday, August 5||Combined practice with Bengals, 3-5:30 p.m.|
|Tuesday, August 6||Combined practice with Bengals, 3-5:20 p.m.|
|Wednesday, August 7||Player day off|
|Thursday, August 8||Preseason game, Atlanta vs. Cincinnati (8 p.m.)|
|Friday, August 9||Player day off|
|Saturday, August 10||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Sunday, August 11||Practice, 3:30-6:05 p.m.|
|Monday, August 12||Break camp|
|Thursday, August 15||Preseason game, Atlanta @ Baltimore (7:30 p.m.)|
|Saturday, August 24||Preseason game, Atlanta @ Tennessee (8 p.m.)|
|Thursday, August 29||Preseason game, Atlanta vs. Jacksonville (7:30 p.m.)|
Right tackle -- The Falcons have two promising young players battling to replace Clabo in Lamar Holmes and Mike Johnson. Holmes was a third-round pick in 2012, while Johnson is entering his fourth year with the team. Falcons blog The Falcoholic believes Holmes has the edge due to his size and pass-protection skills.
Guard -- McClure's retirement means that Peter Konz will be moving from right guard to center. Garrett Reynolds started at the position before an injury ended his season after seven games. His competition could be whichever player loses the right tackle battle. Joe Hawley could be in the mix after a four-game PED suspension derailed his 2012 season.
Cornerback -- Samuel and Trufant are locked in as the starters, but there should be a fight for depth behind them as the team looks to replace Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. Robert McClain excelled at the nickel position last year, grading out 12th out of all cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus. Second-round rookie Robert Alford could push for playing time after 10 career interceptions at SE Louisiana.