- Associated Press - Thursday, August 22, 2019


New faces: OG James Carpenter, OG Jamon Brown, DE Adrian Clayborn, SS J.J. Wilcox, S Chris Cooper, S Afolabi Laguda, DE Chris Odom, DT Tyeler Davison, OT John Wetzel, RB Tony Brooks-James, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, tight ends coach Mike Mularkey.

Key losses: RB Tevin Coleman, CB Robert Alford, OT Ryan Schraeder, PK Matt Bryant, DE Brooks Reed, OG Brandon Fusco, OG Andy Levitre, DE Derrick Shelby, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

Strengths: QB Matt Ryan posted numbers last season which almost matched 2016 MVP production. He has strong trio with WRs Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, and TE Austin Hooper had breakout in 2018. RB Devonta Freeman’s return from groin injury is crucial. Freeman has had full clearance since OTAs.

Weaknesses: In desperate search to better protect Ryan and clear running room for Freeman, Atlanta drafted two offensive linemen - guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary - in first round after signing guards Carpenter and Brown. McGary needed heart procedure during training camp while Carpenter missed time with hip flexor injury, so unit still coming together. After Coleman signed with 49ers, Falcons still looking for backup running back.

Fantasy Players To Watch: Freeman missed 14 games in 2018 but when healthy can post big fantasy numbers. He topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2015 and 2016 but overlooked fantasy key is combined 127 catches those two years. Despite 71 catches, first Pro Bowl honor in 2018, Hooper still going late in drafts, so could be bargain. Ridley’s 10 TD catches may be difficult to repeat but big-play talent is legitimate.

Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl 33 to 1. Over/under wins 9.

Expectations: After firing all three coordinators, Quinn is under pressure to take Falcons back to playoffs. Team owner Arthur Blank has spent big to retain Ryan, DT Grady Jarrett, Freeman and Jones, among others. 2016 Super Bowl season and return to playoffs following season made 2018 especially disappointing. Ryan is 34 and still performing at peak.


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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