Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates a touchdown catch with teammates against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN ranks Atlanta Falcons roster as 30th in NFL

While we are still a couple of weeks away from NFL Training Camp, the always football hungry ESPN.com released a preseason power rankings of sorts, breaking down all 32 NFL rosters and putting them in order from 1-32. At the top, not surprisingly, are the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, followed by NFC runners-up San Fransisco 49ers, then the Super Bowl runners-up Denver Broncos and so on and so forth. So, where are the Atlanta Falcons?

Now remember, 2014 hasn’t started yet and they’re coming off a 2013 season in which they only won four games. Okay, are you ready? ESPN, as of the Dirty Birds roster at this moment, has them at….30th. 30th? In the entire NFL? Only the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars were ranked lower than the Falcons. So, it now begs the question, why so low of a ranking?

This is what the article said:

Atlanta has been in “win-now” mode for a while, but every move the team has made to try to get closer to that aim seems only to have brought it further away from it. This offseason the Falcons spent big retooling their offensive and defensive lines, but seem to have added a series of one-dimensional players.

Unfortunately, these are solid points. It also didn’t help that the Dirty Birds lost a key offensive weapon in Julio Jones early in the year, and they simply weren’t clutch on both sides of the ball when they needed to be.

The article goes into specifics, hitting on a problem we all know almost too well that the Birds have and have still yet to address:

There is a concerning absence of pass rush on the defense, with only really Osi Umenyiora capable of bringing consistent pressure, and he is unlikely to be an every-down player (Jonathan Massaquoi will likely play more of the snaps at that spot). On offense, there is talent at the skill positions, but once again, the offensive line looks like a major issue and an Achilles’ heel for a team that needs to protect its quarterback more than it has in recent years.

In terms of player rankings, only Matt Ryan and Jones were the only two “high quality,” starters listed on the roster, while 66.7% of the roster graded at either average or worse.

The New Orleans Saints were the highest rated NFC South team in this list, taking the fourth spot, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the second highest at 17. The defending division champion Carolina Panthers, with their depleted receiving core, were third at 22.

Atlanta is thought to be a “dark horse” by many heading into the 2014 season, but if this roster evaluation proves to be correct, it could be a long season in Flowery Branch.

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