February 5, 2017 will forever be a day that will live in infamy … well at least to Atlanta Falcons fans it will. I won’t go into a huge analysis of what happened in the Super Bowl because many people I consider friends are still recovering.
Living here in the city of Atlanta there was a black cloud that was felt after that loss. Going to work the next day was like attending a funeral.
Even at Atlanta Hawks games there was something in the air that just wasn’t right.
Life goes on but a city doesn’t just get over something like that. They say time heals all wounds. Well father time is going to have his hands full healing this one.
Fast forward to the beginning of training camp and up until now all the Falcons players and coaches have been saying the right things. Everyone has been on this “we’re gonna move on” narrative. Even though in reality what else could they say?
Preseason is around the corner and this season is going to start regardless of if this team can successfully turn the page or not. So lets take a look at a few questions this team is going to have to answer if it wants to return to the Super Bowl.
Can they maintain Super Bowl 51 amnesia for a full season?
Every week is going to be a test to see if they can forget that dreadful performance. Like this just wasn’t a missed field goal this was a collapse of epic proportions. Just imagine the morning after if they happen to lose a 3 or 10 point lead in the 4th quarter.
This town is full of ghosts like: Eugene Robinson, Mike Vick and Bobby Petrino. This fan base is good at bringing up those ghosts even when they don’t have a reason to. Nothing takes away a city’s pessimism like winning a championship (i.e see Cleveland and Chicago). Will this be the year? We’re not sure but every week is going to be a step in the healing process.
Will the Matt Ryan / Steve Sarkisian combo be a good mix?
This isn’t the first time Ryan has had a new offensive coordinator. However, this Falcons offense was so good last year (3rd overall) and it is a legitimate question to ask if there will be a drop off. Sarkisian is coming from the college ranks and will be Ryan’s 4th OC since 2011.
At this point in their careers it’s pretty safe to say that you know what you are going to get from Ryan, Julio and Freeman. The Falcons should be OK but in this league if you take a step back there might be another team right there with you.
Can they handle Super Bowl expectations?
Atlanta might be the most pessimistic city I’ve ever lived in. Now for perspective I haven’t lived in that many cities. The expectations are sky high in this city and it will be interesting to see how the fan base reacts if this team has a slow start out the gate. Every week when the Falcons play they are going to represent a team that has Super Bowl pedigree and opponents want that. The slogan for this team is rise up so only time will tell if they can rise to those Super Bowl expectations.
Can this young defensive core go from being good to being dominant?
The talk about the Falcons last year was all about their prolific offense. Lets be honest a 50 yard touchdown is sexier than getting a team off the field on a 3 and out. Vic Beasley had a breakout season with 15.5 sacks and the goal for him will be can you consistantly be a double digit sack guy for years to come.
Middle linebacker Deion Jones is settling into this defense very comfortable and he is poised to really shine this year. Add nose tackle Grady Jarrett in the mix and this defense has all the ingredients to take that next step. The offense was so good last year that most forget that the Falcons had a top 10 defense. In year 3 of the Dan Quinn era you can best believe he will challenge this defense to go from top 10 to top 5.
Will Devonte Freeman’s contract (or lack thereof) be a distraction?
In all honesty this is something that probably won’t be an issue but there is a small probability this could fester if not resolved. There was a report this week that Freeman’s agent and the Falcons have cut off talks for now. Don’t read too much into that because they could be on the phone talking by the end of the week.
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t really have a rep of leaving players out to dry. I’m sure this deal will get done but one thing you don’t want to do is mess with NFL players and their money.
Overall the Falcons appear to be in really good shape and a deep run in the playoffs would not surprise me. We will get more in depth with our predictions as training camp and preseason gets closer.