Atlanta Falcons Should Improve in Red Zone in 2015


The Atlanta Falcons had a strong passing game in the NFL last season but left a lot of points on the field due to sub-standard play in the red zone.  Since Atlanta lacked an imposing rushing attack, QB Matt Ryan couldn’t always thread the needle when the passing lines grew tighter inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Though the Atlanta Falcons were actually a Top 10 red zone scoring offense via the touchdown pass last year (61.36%, sixth place), the Dirty Birds only attempted on average 2.8 trips to the red zone per game last year on offense.  Atlanta’s offense could get by on the playmaking ability of guys like Julio Jones, Roddy White, Devin Hester, and Antone Smith and the reliable leg of Matt Bryant.  But once the game got more congested inside of the 20, Atlanta left a ton of points on the field.

-= Julio Jones Wants to be a Falcon for Life =-

With an underwhelming defense last year, Atlanta had to essentially win shootouts to come away with victories last fall, accumulating only 6 in another down year for the Dirty Birds.  However, I do see so major wholesale changes to the Atlanta Falcons offense that should only bolster offensive productivity where it counts, inside the red zone.

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  • New Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him his family’s patented zone blocking scheme which could allow for more production in the running game.  A running gag in the NFL is that just about any tailback can rush for 1,000 yards in a Shanahan ZBS, it works that well.

    The Atlanta Falcons two young tailbacks of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, though sidelined with hamstring issues, could become that much-needed one-two punch Atlanta’s running game has been without since 2011.

    Outside of Freeman and Coleman, veteran playmaker Antone Smith returns from a broken leg with the same lightning quickness he has shown the last several years in Flowery Branch.  Even UDFA rookie Terron Ward is turning heads with his hustle and playmaking ability in Fall Camp.

    -= Atlanta Falcons: Top 5 Rivalries Entering 2015 =-

    The offensive line’s construction is the core of Shanahan’s ZBS.  Heading into the first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, Atlanta’s front five are Jake Matthews, Mike Person, Joe Hawley, Chris Chester, and Ryan Schraeder left to right.  This unit seems like it’s the quickest of any that Shanahan or Offensive Line Coach Chris Morgan could assemble.  If it works well against Ken Whisenhunt‘s Titans on Friday, then perhaps this is the unit that will protect Matt Ryan.

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    Even Ryan will play a part in the improved red zone game of the 2015 Atlanta Falcons.  Matty Ice can now run a believable play-action fake in any situation as the running game is no longer tepid.  Though not known for his legs, Kyle Shanahan and Head Coach Dan Quinn believe that Matt Ryan has the athleticism to run an effective bootleg, possibly taking it to the house himself should the opposing defense bite on the bootlegged play-action fake.

    Likely out of the bootleg, Ryan will now have more than just one tight end to target in the red zone.  Jacob Tamme formerly of the Denver Broncos has very steady hands for a tight end and Tony Moeaki has made some ridiculous catches in his time with the Kansas City Chiefs.  Still even block-handed Levine Toilolo is a massive red zone target for Matt Ryan at 6’8”.  Just go up and get it.

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    Let’s not forget about arguably the deepest wide receiver group in the NFL.  Roddy White is a sure-handed veteran mentoring the greatest collegiate pass catcher in rookie Justin Hardy.  Julio Jones is a given to make plays as a Top 5 wideout in the League.  And if thrown catchable balls which isn’t an issue for accurate Matt Ryan, both Leonard Hankerson and Devin Hester have shown their abilities to make plays in space with the ball in their hands.

    -= Atlanta Falcons: Smith Calling Defense, Not Quinn =-

    With a defense that is improving from rock bottom, expect the 2015 Atlanta Falcons to lean on their offense to give them chances at winning close ball games.  Should the Dirty Birds get even 5 more points a game on average via the red zone, it could go a long way in turning this team around.  Playoffs aren’t out of the question this year, but Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ offense has to score more touchdowns in the red zone as opposed to kicking field goals just outside of it.

    Next: Atlanta Falcons Reveal Initial Depth Chart

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