ATLANTA FALCONS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 28, Flowery Branch, Georgia
LAST YEAR: There was great buzz when Falcons started 5-0 under first-year coach Dan Quinn, but team couldn't overcome 30 turnovers as it lost seven of eight, including six straight, and missed playoffs. Quarterback Matt Ryan's production declined in first year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan; 21 TD passes were his low since rookie season, and he threw 16 interceptions. Even so, WR Julio Jones had huge year with second-most catches and yards receiving in NFL history. RB Devonta Freeman emerged with strong dual-threat numbers. WR Roddy White, who holds most of team's career receiving records, was released.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: C Alex Mack, WR Mohamed Sanu, LB Courtney Upshaw, DE Derrick Shelby, rookie S Keanu Neal, QB Matt Schaub, rookie OLB Deion Jones, rookie TE Austin Hooper.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LB Justin Durant, WR Roddy White, S William Moore, NT Paul Soliai, WR Leonard Hankerson.
CAMP NEEDS: Sanu and second-year WR Justin Hardy need to establish themselves as complements to Jones. Mack is being counted on to provide leadership at center, something O-line has lacked since Todd McClure was pushed into retirement following 2012 season. Ryan, 31, should benefit from stronger line, needs to cut down on poor decisions. Defense still looking to establish pass rush after finishing last in league with only 19 sacks, and 2015 first-rounder Vic Beasley Jr. is moving to outside linebacker in base defense, though he'll remain pass-rushing end on passing downs.
EXPECTATIONS: Defense that was horrid in 2014 improved to middle of rankings in Quinn's first season, and former Seattle defensive coordinator slowly is collecting more talent to fit scheme. Upshaw, Shelby and Neal should help provide more improvement, while a second year in Shanahan's system should lead to better play and fewer mistakes from Ryan. Schedule looks difficult in team's final season in Georgia Dome, but even slight improvement could have Falcons contending for wild-card bid.
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