Updated 11:55 PM EDT, Sat, Oct 16, 2021

Atlanta Falcons 2014--2015 Season Preview: Fantasy Sleepers, Predictions and More

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With the NFL season fast approaching, Latino Post looks at the offseason moves that will make or break each team.


Last Season: 4-12 (Tied for last in NFC South)

Key Additions: G Jon Asamoah, G Gabe Carimi, DE Tyson Jackson, NT Paul Soliai, CB Josh Wilson, CB Javier Arenas, S Dwight Lowery, KR Devin Hester, QB T.J. Yates, OT Jake Matthews (1st round), DT Ra'Shede Hageman (2nd round), FS Dezmen Southward (3rd round), RB Devonta Freeman (4th round), OLB Prince Shembo (5th round)

Key Losses: TE Tony Gonzalez, CB Asante Samuel, S Thomas Decoud, G Garrett Reynolds, RB Jason Snellings, FB Bradie Ewing, OLB Stephen Nicholas, ILB Akeem Dent

Games to Watch: Sept. 7 vs. New Orleans, Oct. 19 at Baltimore, Nov. 16 at Carolina, Dec. 21 at New Orleans

Three Questions Heading into the 2014-15 Season:

1.       Who replaced Tony Gonzalez?

How does Atlanta replace a first ballot Hall of Famer? Quite simply, they don't. And they didn't even try.

Tony Gonzalez retired after 14 Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro teams and zero Super Bowl victories. He joined the Falcons in 2009 and caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to become the 21st player, and first tight end, with 11,000 receiving yards in NFL history.

Gonzalez was the spark that lit Atlanta's offense; the venerable tight end Ryan needed when the running game stumbled. When Julio Jones missed 11 games, and Roddy White two, Gonzalez shouldered their workload recording 859 yards and eight touchdowns on 83 receptions.

The 17-year veteran retired following a bitter 4-12 season. Levine Toilolo, Bear Pascoe, and Mickey Shuler battled through training camp for Gonzalez spot.

Atlanta waived Shuler despite impressive preseason outings against Houston and Jacksonville, though health concerns may have played a part. Toilolo is the projected starter because he's more of a red zone threat than Pascoe. He's also got reach, height, and a hands advantage over the former New York Giant.

That isn't to say Toilolo will duplicate Gonzalez's productivity. But with a healthy White and Jones, he won't have to.

2.       Who starts at halfback in the season opener?

Three years ago, Stephen Jackson would instill fear in defensive lines. Today, he'll be lucky to break 600 rushing yards.

The 10th-year running back is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a nagging groin injury suffered early in the 2013 season. Signed to lead the Falcons ground attack, Jackson was pivotal to a running game ranked last in the NFL. As a result of four missed games, he missed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2004.

His downward trends can't solely be attributed to injury. Jackson's ineffectiveness correlates with the wear and tear a halfback endures near the twilight of his career.

Second-string running back Jacquizz Rodgers has youth over Jackson but not much else. He couldn't even log 100 carries last season. Rodgers notched a career-low 3.5 yards per carry and didn't have a run of 20 or more yards. Not exactly the prototypical one-two tandem Atlanta envisioned.

The duo likely heads a running back-by-committee approach against New Orleans, even if better options are available.

Rookie Devonta Freeman was pulled in the fourth round of last spring's draft, but may play himself into a starting role late in the season. In the Falcons' final tune-up before Sunday's opener, Freeman logged 42 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. He blends solids hands with power-a la a young Pierre Thomas- and is destined to become the team's No. 1 tailback.

3.       Is the defensive line still a cause for concern?

Atlanta's prerogative this offseason was to find a pass-rusher. They ranked 29th in sacks and didn't have a single defender reach double-digits in the department.

Osi Umenyiora pulled in a team-high 7.5 sacks in his first of a two-year deal. It was a great season for the resurgent Umenyiora, but one the Falcons shouldn't bank on the 32-year-old defensive end replicating.

Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai signed via free agency, and University of Minnesota tackle Ra'Shede Hageman was a second-round choice in the NFL draft. The latter isn't ready to start while Jackson and Soliai don't inspire confidence up the middle.

Little changed amongst the linebackers. Head coach Mike Smith could have gone after Jadaveon Clowney but didn't, instead waiting for the fourth round to select Prince Shembo who likely starts by default.

Only one run defense allowed more rush yards per game last season. Not much was done to improve on that.

Fantasy sleeper:

Devonta Freeman- RB

Let's face it. Jackson can't play through a 16-game season anymore. Rodgers can't do much better, especially for a guy who couldn't capitalize on Jackson's injury. Besides, he's more of a third-down specialist.

Freeman averaged 3.6 yards per carry at Florida State. He's a dependable receiver prone to burst through open holes. Freeman has a lot to prove, but he'll get a change once Jackson and Rodgers fizzle out.

Prediction: 9-7

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