Surely, the Falcons have a lot to be excited about. Matt Ryan has been phenomenal so far in his young career and Michael Turner and Rowdy Roddy White help create a very formidable offense. While Ryan has led the Falcons to two memorable, exciting regular seasons in the Georgia Dome, one thing still hangs over the young signal caller: the goose egg. Despite all the talent on this team, the Falcons are a disappointing 0-2 in the playoffs under Matty Ice, and this needs to change soon before Ryan gains a reputation for being a loser or choker.
Despite being one of the better AFC teams, there are many improvements to be made in order to get the team some much-needed January success. However, if the team plays its cards right, by this time a year from now Atlanta won't even remember some of these question marks and the Falcons may just be 2011-12 Super Bowl contenders. Below I present the three biggest areas of need.
Wide Receiver and/or Tight End
You wouldn't know it judging by his play, but Matt Ryan needs more to work with. Roddy White's play has been incredible, but at wideout that's pretty much all they have. Michael Jenkins has yet to really contribute anything to this team, and while Harry Douglas has shown a few flashes, the team has yet to see enough out of him to know if they can actually count on him. Compounding the problem is the fact that Tony Gonzalez is deep in the twilight of his career. Netting just 70 grabs last year, Gonzalez compiled a career-low 9.4 yards per catch. His 70 catches and 6 touchdowns show that he was still a useful player last year, but the numbers show that Gonzalez is trending downward and that the Falcons need to start considering drafting a replacement.
Sam Baker was supposed to be a really good pass protector coming out of Southern California. So much for that. Baker has become perhaps the biggest liability on Atlanta's offensive line, and the Falcons need an upgrade to allow Ryan more time in the pocket. The Falcons gave up the third fewest sacks last year with 23, but that's not going to stop them from looking at potential upgrades in the earliest rounds of the draft. Because this isn't the biggest hole on the roster, it may not be addressed until round 2 or later. However, if the opportunity to pick Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi arises, I have to think they will jump at it and snatch him up.
Atlanta's weak pass rush generated just 31 sacks last year, which was just barely outside the bottom 10 in the league. John Abraham had another productive season with 13 sacks last year, but they've got practically nothing to complement him. Starting left end Kroy Biermann registered only 36 tackles and a paltry 3 sacks in 2010, so he is the weakest link. If not a wide receiver, Atlanta will be looking for an upgrade at defensive end in the first round, with Brooks Reed a potential target of interest. If the Falcons instead wish to upgrade with a rush linebacker, they could go with Akeem Ayers or Cameron Heyward, however with a 4-3 defense there is no need.