Week Five: Atlanta Falcons (1PM, Georgie Dome)
What Happened: Last year’s campaign held little but disappointment for the Atlanta Falcons. They once again failed to meet expectations, finishing with a meager 6-10 record. That essentially finished the run of now ex-head coach Mike Smith. It wasn’t all terrible as the Matt Ryan-led passing game produced, but others areas, not so much. The Falcons ranked 21st in rushing yards gained and dead last in yards allowed on defense. Even playing in the abhorrent NFC South didn’t help as Atlanta missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
What's New: The biggest change for the Falcons since the end of the 2014 season is the coaching change from Smith to Dan Quinn, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator. Personnel help for the defense came in the first round as Atlanta used the eighth pick on Clemson perimeter pass rusher Vic Beasley. The Georgia native needs to develop as a run defender, but the outside linebacker’s ability to rush the quarterback will help a unit that labored doing such things last season..
Question for Training Camp: Somebody will emerge as the primary running back. Who that somebody will be is the mystery. The candidates are Devonta Freeman and intriguing rookie Tevin Coleman. As (bad) luck would have it, both are out of the lineup with injuries. The veteran Freeman is currently favored to win the job, but Coleman seems to be the more talented back.. At 6-foot 1-inch and 205 pounds, Coleman is one of the hardest runners in this years draft class. He looks like he could be a game-changing back in the future, but at the moment has questionable ability to make defenders miss. It may be wise for the Falcons to let him play and develop, but its seems as though a running back by committee will be in store for the 2015 season. Make sure to keep an eye on this battle though to see if either runner steps up as the clear number one.
Matchup to Watch: Devin Hester is a scary man. The Redskins special teams coverage have been frightening in their own right in recent years, but not in the good way. Expect plenty of new personnel for Washington in these areas with rookie Kyshoen Jarrett a potential force. Still, talk about a test. Hester is one of the best returners in NFL history.
Fantasy Focus: The Julio Jones hype machine work hard and yet he still might be undervalued. That’s assuming he’s not one of the top five wide receivers selected. Some believe that’s too low. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan - remember him?? - will work wonders for Jones with zone blocking run attack, which in turns should open downfield passing opportunities. This is the type of matchup the Redskins envision for cornerback Chris Culliver. Best of luck, Chris.