In many ways, 2020 is a do or die season for the Falcons.
After two consecutive 7-9 seasons, the job security of general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn is up in the air. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are getting older, leaving questions as to just how much longer the duo can continue to tear defenses apart.
With all that in mind, this year could play a major part in the trajectory of Atlanta long-term.
Should the Falcons flip the script this season, here are three strengths Atlanta will boast in 2020.
Offensive skill positions
No team has many many fun toys as the Falcons do on offense. The list of explosive weapons runs deep in Atlanta, ranging from Julio Jones to Matt Ryan to new additions such as Todd Gurley.
The glue of the Falcons’ offensive machine is Ryan, whose steady production has his name in the top 10 of all-time NFL passers. A year ago, the future hall of famer threw for 4,466 yards and 26 touchdowns while missing one game due to injury.
But what makes the Falcons truly scary for opposing defenses is the stable of top-end talent Ryan has at his disposal--including football’s best receiver, Julio Jones, who put up nearly 1,400 receiving yards last season.
Joining Jones is Calvin Ridley who, if it weren’t for injury, would have eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards last year. New to the fold this season is running back Gurley. When healthy, Gurley is one of the most dynamic backs in the sport. In 2018, he averaged nearly five yards per carry and tallied 21 total touchdowns with the Rams.
The trio of Ryan, Jones and Gurley has the potential to be the most potent in the NFL. These three, joined by Ridley and new-coming tight end Hayden Hurst, make the offense the focal point of the 2020 Falcons.
Across the board, the Falcons return a team littered with seasoned veterans at key positions.
The three best players on the Atlanta defense, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Dante Fowler, have been in the league for more than four seasons. All of these players are in the primes of their careers.
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On offense, Ryan is entering his 13th season while Jones is set to take on year 10 in 2020. Calvin Ridley is no longer young while key pieces along the offensive line have become battle tested.
In other words, this season is the perfect window for the Falcons to make a run with the current set of players. Ryan and Jones are in the back ends of their prime while the stars on defense are entering their golden years.
The time is now for this set of Falcons players.
Defensive line (maybe)
What was the team’s biggest weakness a season ago just may be a strength in 2020 with a big qualification: avoiding injuries.
Gone is Vic Beasley and in comes Dante Fowler Jr., who projects to be a significant upgrade at the defensive end position. Atlanta also addressed this position group through the draft by taking Marlon Davidson who has impressive versatility to play both inside and outside.
Of course, Grady Jarrett is the key to the Falcons’ defensive line. The Pro Bowler has established himself as one of the marquee interior d-linemen in football with 115 tackles for loss to his name during his career.
If, however, this group is to shine in 2020, health is key. Outside of Fowler, Davidson and Jarrett, the Atlanta pass rush is essentially non-existent. This is a shallow group, but one with top-end talent capable of contributing to a turnaround this season.
If the Falcons are back in 2020, this position group holds the keys.
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