Atlanta Falcons: 5 players who must improve

Atlanta Falcons, NFL Offseason

Dan Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons are the only team in the NFC to reach the playoffs the past two years. Which players need to bolster their performance in 2018?

Quick. Name the only team in the NFC that has reached the NFL playoffs each of the past two seasons. You would have guessed wrong if you said the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants or the Detroit Lions. Those five clubs were singled out because all were in the playoffs in 2016 and all failed to reach the postseason one year later.

Hence, the answer is the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a team that was supposedly getting ready to suffer a Super Bowl hangover following what proved to be a disastrous afternoon against the New England Patriots the previous year in Super Bowl LI.

However, when you look at what the team has built over these past three seasons, you can see that this is a pretty solid organization from top to bottom. They’ve used the draft wisely and have a solid mix of youth and experience. Still, a 10-6 record this past season relegated them to third place in the NFC South.

They bested the upstart Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Game and fell just short of knocking off the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Of course, this is one of 12 NFL franchises that is still not in possession of a Lombardi Trophy. If that is to happen in 2018, which five players need to play better for Dan Quinn’s team this upcoming season?

5. Jack Crawford

Four games into 2017, Falcons’ reserve defensive tackle Jack Crawford suffered a torn biceps and was lost for the remainder of the club’s campaign. But with 2017 starter Dontari Poe now a member of the Carolina Panthers, there’s a big opportunity for the six-year pro to become a primary starter once again.

That was the case for Crawford in 2016, when the one-time member of the Oakland Raiders started 11 games for the Dallas Cowboys. The 6’5”, 274-pound performer can play inside or outside in the 4-3.

Admittedly, it’s a small sample size from a year ago. But the Falcons need the veteran defender to perform better and that may happen with more playing time. Keep in mind that along with Poe, this is an Atlanta team that saw end Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Courtney Upshaw move on during free agency as well.

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