2015 Atlanta Falcons preview: NFC South title within reach?

The Atlanta Falcons begin their 50th season Monday night with a lot more questions than answers.

How does a franchise that’s gone 10-22 the last two years rebound? At the end of the 2014 season, it started with a new head coach. Since February, this has been Dan Quinn’s team. The Seattle Seahawks’ old defensive coordinator vowed to turn around a defense that has been among the league’s worst over the past few seasons.

We’ll start to find out Monday night what strides have been made under the leadership of the team’s new head coach, but this will be a long process. Much like the city’s pro baseball team, the focus is to trend upward over the next two years and be ready to contend again when a new stadium opens in 2017.

(Also read: Another new Atlanta arena coming soon?)

The 2015 Falcons are older than the 2014 squad and older than almost every team in the NFL. At an average of 26.77 years, the Falcons are the third-oldest team in the league, Philly Voice said. Last year, they were eighth-oldest, and in 2013, they were in the middle of the league in terms of age. They’ve been getting considerably older throughout this stretch of bad play.

But in 2012, the year the Falcons went to the NFC Championship game and very nearly the Super Bowl, the roster was second-oldest in the NFL, so age isn’t always an indicator of a poor outcome. At some point, the veteran presence has to be beneficial.

Ironically, the Falcons will need to rely heavily on their youngest players if they’re going to achieve success in 2015. First-round draft pick Vic Beasley has already made an impact in the preseason along a defensive line that hasn’t been very good in the past few years. He’ll be expected to contribute in a big way for that front.

Rookie running back Tevin Coleman has all the tools to be a solid starting running back for Atlanta, and just days ago, Quinn named him the starter over second-year back Devonta Freeman. The Falcons lacked a solid running game in 2014, and it added pressure to quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of the passing game.

It will be a great shock to the entire sports world if Atlanta wins the Super Bowl this season, but there’s no reason to believe the Falcons won’t contend for a division title. The team made steps in the right direction last year, and the NFC South is once again expected to be mediocre.

10-6 might be the best the Falcons can do this year, but that’s probably good enough to win the division. Heck, 8-8 might be good enough to do it.

For the Falcons, the 2015 goals should be simple: keep Matt Ryan and Julio Jones healthy, and a playoff berth will probably be within reach. Get the defense some experience, and let cornerback Desmond Trufant become a star in the secondary.

It all starts Monday night at the Dome when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town. If you’re not fired up for a new season, maybe this video will help:

Photo via AtlantaFalcons.com

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