Over the last few weeks, we have been reviewing the upcoming opponents that the 49ers will play in this coming season. That means we have looked at all the teams from the AFC North and the NFC North. Before moving on to the NFC West, let's take a look at the two odd-ball teams the 49ers will play: the same positioned teams from the NFC East and NFC South. We'll start today with the Atlanta Falcons before finishing with the New York Giants later this week.
The Atlanta Falcons had an extremely disappointing season, finishing third in their division with a 6-10 record. Their showing was made all the more disappointing by how utterly embarrassing the NFC South was. Any team that was remotely good would have run away with the division - the Panthers won the division title with a 7-8-1 record.
Yet, the fact remains that the Falcons have some talent on the team, and it would be best not to underestimate them. Matt Ryan is still good, and the team just re-signed K Matt Bryant. Julio Jones and Roddy White are a good one-two punch. The talent is still there for new HC Dan Quinn to build around, particularly with Kyle Shanahan coming in as the new OC.
The most interesting move of the offseason, however, was the fact that the Falcons let go of RB Steven Jackson. He definitely had not been himself since he left for Atlanta, so I can understand why they let him go, but this means the Falcons are lacking a true two-down RB. The Falcons also cut WR Harry Douglas and G Justin Blalock.
Free Agents (Courtesy of NFL.com):
Unrestricted Free Agents: Osi Umenyiora, DE; Jonathan Massaquoi, DE; Sean Weatherspoon, OLB; Kroy Biermann, OLB;
Steven Jackson, RB; Jacquizz Rodgers, RB; Harry Douglas, WR; Corey Peters, DT; Robert McClain, CB; Antone Smith, RB; Mike Johnson, G; T.J. Yates, QB; Gabe Carimi, OT; Javier Arenas, CB; Dwight Lowery, S; Charles Godfrey, S; Justin Blalock, G; Jonathan Scott, OT.
Restricted Free Agents: N/A.
There are a few players on this list that the Falcons might think about re-signing, especially since they correspond with potential needs, thus fulfilling the need for depth. Weatherspoon plays at a position of need, but given his injury history the Falcons might look to upgrade the position. A similar statement might be made about Lowery. Though S is a position of need, the Falcons might want to bring in a better player, especially given Lowery's history with concussions.
In addition to some of the needs we discussed above, look for the Falcons to bring in some depth on the edge. In general the weakness on the Falcons stems more from defense than offense, and part of the problem has been a consistent lack of pass rush. On the offensive side of the ball, however, the Falcons will want to find a better fit for the G position than Blalock was. They might also look to bring in another TE.