The San Francisco 49ers have entered a dead period, with four weeks left until the team reports for training camp. Since we know the schedule, and most 90-man rosters are just about set, now seems like a good time to start previewing each of the 49ers opponents heading into training camp. With the help of the other 31 SB Nation blogs, we’ve come up with preview content breaking down where things stand for each team on a variety of issues. We’ve got a template looking at key additions and departures, big storylines and under-the-radar storylines heading into camp, and injuries to consider.
We started with the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets. Today we move on to the 49ers Week 15 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. A year ago, these two faced off in Santa Clara in Blaine Gabbert’s first start with the 49ers. The 49ers had been held without a touchdown in Weeks 6 and 7, and Gabbert had a pair of touchdown passes in the 49ers 17-16 win. Gabbert connected twice with tight end Garrett Celek.
The previous game the 49ers and Falcons played? The Pick at the Stick. Here’s some fun fan video from that one:
Here is what our friends at The Falcoholic had to say about their Atlanta Falcons.
Notable free agent additions: Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu, Courtney Upshaw, Derrick Shelby
Notable free agent departures: They weren’t really free agents, but the team parted ways with veteran SS William Moore, WR Roddy White and DT Paul Soliai.
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: Strong safety Keanu Neal should start, LB Deion Jones is competing for the starting middle linebacker role, and fourth rounder De’Vondre Campbell is trying to earn the starting weakside linebacker spot.
Biggest offseason addition: Without question, Alex Mack. Atlanta’s interior line play was a liability last season, and having a center of Mack’s caliber to anchor the line should make a tremendous difference. The Falcons paid Mack accordingly, too.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: Almost certainly the rookie linebackers. That position group has been a weakness for the Falcons, and in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, Atlanta added the speed Dan Quinn needs to execute his defense effectively. Both have opportunities to unseat veterans and earn starting roles.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: The kicker competition! No, seriously. Matt Bryant has been with the Falcons for years, and he’s won a lot of games for this team. Last year, he was significantly impacted by injury, landing on injured reserve toward the end of the season, and the Falcons will have an undrafted free agent rookie, Nick Rose, in camp who can challenge Bryant for the job.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Devin Hester is continuing to recover from surgery to address the turf toe that sidelined him for a chunk of last season. Rookie Devin Fuller has been working through a hamstring injury. Right guard Chris Chester was dealing with a shoulder injury during OTAs and minicamp, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has some tendinitis in his knee that slowed him down this offseason.