In three seasons, Ryan has thrown for 10,061 yards, which ranks fifth in franchise history. Last season, he established single-game career highs in attempts/completions (50/32 vs. Baltimore in Week 10) and completion percentage (85.7 vs. Green Bay in Week 12). He has posted a 33-13 record as a starter and has led the Falcons to the playoffs twice. However, the team is 0-2 in the playoffs. He is becoming a master at operating the no-huddle attack and the team could eventually turn the reigns over to him. Redman is still a solid backup and will be ready for any emergencies.
RB Michael Turner
In 102 career games (43 starts), Turner has totaled 1,116 carries for 5,198 yards (4.6 average), 45 touchdowns and a career long rush of 83 yards, which went for a touchdown. He first broke the 1,000-yard mark in his career in 2008 while earning his first Pro Bowl selection. Last season, Turner managed to churn out 1,371 yards after suffering a groin injury in the second game of the season. He had offseason surgery and appears ready to carry the load again. Fullback Ovie Mughelli is one of the game's top lead blockers and will surprise some teams with his hands in the passing game. The versatile Jason Snelling can play running back and fullback. He's a threat in the passing game. Jacquizz Rodgers was hurt by the lockout and is still learning the system. He's run the ball well in the preseason, but has to learn his pass protections.
Starter -- Tony Gonzalez. Backups -- Reggie Kelly, Michael Palmer.
Gonzalez is still one of the best route-running tight ends in the game and must be accounted for by defensive coordinators. In 14 NFL seasons, he has made 11 Pro Bowl appearances. He holds NFL records for career receptions (1,069), receiving yards (12,463), touchdown catches (88), 100-yard receiving games (27), Pro Bowl appearances (11) and 1,000-yard seasons (four) among all tight ends. While he has lost some of his speed, he is still a force. Kelly, who was originally drafted by the Falcons in 1999, was signed after Justin Peelle suffered a knee injury and received an injury settlement. Palmer is a promising second-year player with good hands.
The team elected to go young with this group. They were able to get Jones a playbook when the lockout was temporarily lifted and had Matt Ryan and John Parker Wilson teach it to him. He should be able to hit the ground running and help keep teams from doubling White, who led the league with 115 catches last season. While Jones needs to polish up his route-running ability, he's fast enough with his sub-4.4 speed to play through his mistakes. Douglas had an electric preseason and could develop into a force from the slot. Meier will have to contribute on special teams and serve as the main backup at all spots.
With Harvey Dahl signing with St. Louis and McClure out after knee surgery, the Falcons will have two new starters along the line. Reynolds, the nephew of former NFL great Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds, and Mike Johnson are in a fierce battle to replace Dahl. Hawley, McClure's heir-apparent, is being pressed into duty a little earlier than the team would like. Romberg was signed as insurance at center. Clabo and Baker are back for their fourth year together. Baker and Blalock are stable on the right side and clear out a lot of space in the running game.
DE John Abraham
Abraham has been lonely while rampaging through the opposition's backfields. But the team went out and got him some help. Now, he's hoping that Edwards, a free-agent signee from Minnesota, will also spend some time in the opponent's backfield. Abraham had 13 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries last season. Edwards had eight sacks and 20 sacks over the last two years, counting his playoff games. If the Falcons can get double-digit sacks out of their ends, that will go a long way towards helping their pass defense. Also, Biermann should find a spot in the rotation as a situational rusher coming off the edge. Babineaux and the steady Peters, who should be back from a knee injury in time to start the season, hold things together well inside. Jerry came in on third downs last season and enjoyed some success rushing the passer.
The Falcons are going young at both outside spots. Second-year man Weatherspoon will move over to the weak-side spot and take over for Peterson, who will serve in a reserve capacity. Lofton will stay in the middle with Nicholas, who was re-signed in free agency, playing the strong side. Weatherspoon flashed signs of being an explosive player before suffering ankle and knee injuries last season. In Wire and Peterson, they have two solid veterans who can play all three spots. Rookie Dent will get some action on special teams and learn mostly from watching.
Robinson suffered another hamstring injury and appears to be getting lapped by Grimes as the team's top cornerback. Franks, who is developing some nice ball skills, and Owens were in a battle for the nickel spot, which got more competitive with the addition of Hayden. On the back end, they brought in Sanders, who was released by New England. He will compete for playing time with Moore and DeCoud. Moore is the thumper in the group, while DeCoud has the range to roam the field.
The loss of Michael Koenen, who signed with Tampa Bay during free agency, will be felt. He did a great job of directional punting and got excellent hang time. The coverage units will certainly miss him. Bosher, a rookie, had a spotty preseason. He has a live leg, but is not able to control it yet. Weems made the Pro Bowl as the specialist, but he also returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown last season. While he doesn't have blazing speed, he is a crafty returner.
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