2010 Atlanta Falcons Season Preview

All in all, things look promising for the "Dirty Birds" according to most accounts of the 2010 Atlanta Falcons Season Preview. Last year the Atlanta Falcons accomplished a feat that had not been done in the 42-year history of the organization. After tabbing an 11-5 record in two seasons ago, the Falcons won nine games last year, and in doing so, cemented back-to-back winning seasons for the first time ever. Still, the season can be considered unsuccessful because Atlanta failed to make the playoffs and finished a distant four games behind NFC South and eventual Super Bowl Champion New Orleans.

On both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the Falcons were pedestrian with respect to their standings statistically compared to the rest of the NFL. On offense, quarterback Matt Ryan followed up his impressive rookie campaign throwing for 223 yards per game, good enough for 14th in the NFL. Running back Michael Turner produced over 1,600 yards two years ago, but last season struggled with injuries and production, and Atlanta ranked 15th in total rushing. Atlanta ranked 21st in total defense, surrendering close to 350 yards per game.

Heading into this season, the majority of NFL Analysts have the team finishing second in the NFC South Division, behind the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. It would be the exact same finish from a season ago, in which the Falcons missed a Wild Card Berth and the failed to make the post-season.

2010 Atlanta Falcons Coaching Staff & Changes

Mike Smith filled the head coaching vacancy for the Atlanta Falcons back in 2008, and in his rookie season with the organization was the AP NFL Coach of the Year. Smith led the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a NFC South Division title. He followed that up by taking the Falcons to back-to-back winning season for the first time in the history of the franchise in 2009, going 9-7.

In his two seasons with Atlanta, Smith took the team to the post-season once, tabbing a playoff record of 0-1, and an overall record of 20-13.

2010 Atlanta Falcons Key Free Agency Acquisitions & LossesAcquistions
CB - Dunta Robinson From Houston Texans

CB - Tye Hill to Tennessee Titans
CB - Chris Houston to Detroit Lions

2010 Atlanta Falcons NFL DraftRound 1: Pick 19 - LB, Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri)
Round 3: Pick 83 - DT, Corey Peters (Kentucky)
Round 3: Pick 98 - OL, Mike Johnson (Alabama)
Round 4: Pick 117 - OL, Joe Hawley (UNLV)
Round 5: Pick 135 - CB, Dominique Franks (Oklahoma)
Round 5: Pick 165 - WR, Kerry Meier (Kansas)
Round 6: Pick 171 - S, Shann Schillinger (Montana)

2010 Atlanta Falcons QuarterbacksAs if you needed this 2010 Atlanta Falcons Team Preview to know this, but Falcons will once again be led by their young, promising quarterback Matt Ryan in the 2010 season. Entering his third season in the NFL after being selected third overall by the Falcons back in the 2008 NFL Draft, Ryan looks to keep building upon the success that has made him worthy of his pick and money. Ryan shot out of the gates, with his first-ever pass being a touchdown in his rookie season. After putting up very impressive numbers in his rookie season, Ryan did not account for quite the numbers in 2009. Still, to call Ryan's 2009 season a "slump" would not be accurate. Ryan struggled with a turf toe injury that caused him to miss some time during the year. Ryan threw for 2,916 yards in 14 games, as he missed two due to injury. The sophomore quarterback also threw 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and had a completion percentage of nearly 60 percent.

Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has said that he will continue to open up the play book as Ryan grows and matures as a quarterback. Mularkey sites Ryan's grasp of the system and that his decision making is improving constantly.

Behind Ryan will be Chris Redman. Redman stepped in for two games last season as the starter, but participated in three total. Redman threw for 781 yards and four touchdowns, including a 303-yard effort against New Orleans in a 26-23 Week 12 loss.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Depth Chart
QB - Matt Ryan
QB - Chris Redman
QB - D.J. Shockey
QB - John Parker Wilson

2010 Atlanta Falcons Running BacksMichael Turner did not perform up to expectations last season, after rushing for over 1,600 yards and being elected to the Pro Bowl in 2008. However, for the latter half of the season, Turner struggled with several injuries that plagued him throughout. Turner carried the ball 178 times for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns. The running back has pledged a renewed commitment in 2010, and will come to camp 25 pounds lighter than last season. However, Turner will not be the only player seeing significant time in the offensive backfield, as the Falcons will continue to use a three-headed monster. While the tandem will be led by Turner, Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling will also see the playing field. Both present varying styles, as Norwood is an explosive player, who can break the big run at any moment. Snelling is a north-south, yards after contact bruiser in the back field who is a good short yardage back. The three running backs provide the Falcons with a very balanced running attack.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Running Back Depth Chart
RB - Michael Turner
RB - Jerious Norwood
RB - Jason Snelling

2010 Atlanta Falcons Wide ReceiversRyan will have no shortage of players to throw the ball to in 2010, a highlight of the 2010 Atlanta Falcons Season Preview. Perhaps Ryan's most favorite target will once again be veteran tight-end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez was a go-to target for Ryan last season, catching 83 passes for 867 yards and six touchdowns. Additionally, Roddy White is quickly becoming one of the top receivers in the NFC, and is a big deep-threat, and a player who is capable of producing big plays on the field. Rounding out Ryan's top-three targets from last season is Michael Jenkins. Jenkins is a reliable receiver, who can catch virtually anything thrown to him. Together, these three players give Ryan different looks and several options to throw to. The Falcons will also be happy to get back receiver Harry Douglas, who is coming off an ACL tear that sidelined him last season. Douglas is a receiver similar to White. Douglas is speedy and can break away from the secondary.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Wide Receivers Depth Chart
WR - Roddy White
WR - Harry Douglas
WR - Michael Jenkins
WR - Brian Finneran

Projected Atlanta Falcons Tight End Depth Chart
TE - Tony Gonzalez
TE - Justin Peelle

2010 Atlanta Falcons Offensive LineThe Falcons' offensive line features a tandem of young and veteran players, that should combine to give Ryan the time he needs to make a decision. Ryan was sacked a total of 19 times last season, which adds up to just over once per game. The Atlanta offensive line suffered a variety of injuries during the 2009 season, and a premium will be placed on health in 2010. The five starters for the Falcons this season are the same responsible for the Atlanta's No.2-ranked rushing attack in 2008. Center Todd McClure headlines the group exchanging the ball to Ryan.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Starting Offensive Line
LT - Sam Bakers
LG - Justin Blalock
C - Todd McClure
RG - Harvey Dahl
RT - Tyson Clabo

2010 Atlanta Falcons Defensive LineThe defensive line for the Atlanta Falcons begins with end John Abraham. Abraham wreaked havoc in opponents backfields' in 2008, racking up 16.5 sacks on the year. In 2009 however, he produced just 5.5 sacks on the year and was held at bay. The Falcons top draft pick in 2009, Peria Jerry, went out in Week 2 with a season-ending ACL Tear, which helped offenses game plan for Abraham. Jerry comes backs this season and Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder hopes the defensive tackle can plug up the middle and allow for an effective pass rush this season. Opposite Jerry will be Jonathan Babineaux, as the tandem will try and stop the run game. The Falcons ranked 10th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and racked up 28 sacks last season in the 4-3 set defense. Still, the addition of Perry should help aid in the pass rush for Abraham, and help Babineaux in the middle.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Starting Defensive Line
LDE - Kroy Biermann
DT - Johnathan Babineaux
DT - Peria Jerry
RDE - John Abraham

2010 Atlanta Falcons LinebackersThe action in the linebacking core in the 2010 Atlanta Falcons Team Preview is headlined by Curtis Lofton, who tabbed 133 tackles and forced three fumbles in 2009, and just missed out on a Pro Bowl appearance. Atlanta went in the direction of linebacker with their top selection in the 2010 NFL Draft in Sean Witherspoon out of Missouri, who could challenge starter Mike Peterson on the weak-side for his spot. On the strong side, Stephen Nicolas is in fourth season, is good against the run and sees the ball well.

Projected Atlanta Falcons Starting Linebackers
WLB - Mike Peterson/Sean Witherspoon
MLB - Curtis Lofton
SLB - Stephen Nicolas

2010 Atlanta Falcons SecondaryThe Falcons got a key addition in corner back Dunta Robinson, acquired from Houston. The Falcons struggled against the pass in 2009, ranking 29th in the league, surrendering 249 yards per game. Atlanta is hoping that Robinson will be the missing link to the struggling secondary. Veteran Brian Williams enters his second season with the team and Robinson and Williams should compliment each other nicely. Williams tore his ACL last season in Game 5, for which prior to, the Falcons did not give up 20 points in a single game.

Projected 2010 Atlanta Falcons Starting Secondary
CB - Brian Williams
CB - Dunta Robinson
SS - Erik Coleman
FS - Thomas DeCoud

2010 Atlanta Falcons