From the Branch


Allen, Stupar Among Most-Improved 2015 Falcons

Posted Jan 11, 2016

As Atlanta worked towards a two-win increase from 2014, a lot of up-and-coming Falcons became key assets thanks to their individual progress. Here's a look at the team's five most-improved players in 2015.

Devonta Freeman: Although Freeman saw limited action as a rookie, it didn’t take long for him to burst onto the scene this year. He finished with 1,634 all-purpose yards—1,056 on the ground, 578 through the air—and three touchdown catches and 11 rushing scores, a league-high. The 5-foot-9 athlete out of Florida State solidified himself as the Falcons’ top RB threat and earned himself a well-deserved trip to the Pro Bowl.

Patrick DiMarco: DiMarco struggled at times in 2014, but after a heated position battle in training camp, he put together a career year in that, in many eyes, made him the NFL’s best fullback. His Pro Football Focus grade (14) was more than twice as high as any other at FB; his blocking grade (11.5) was nearly three times better than the second-best mark. He didn’t qualify for the Pro Bowl, but he did receive second-team All-Pro honors thanks to his ability to pave holes in the run game and make timely catches when needed.

Jake Matthews: While Matthews faced a lot of adversity in his first professional season, the left tackle looked worthy of the sixth-overall selection 2014. No longer hampered by a nagging Lisfranc injury, he allowed just one sack and six QB hits in 666 snaps, proving he can effectively protect Matt Ryan’s blindside. He also displayed the kind of speed and technique required to run the outside-zone blocking scheme.

Nate Stupar: After spending most of 2014 on special teams, Stupar grew into a valuable linebacker for the Falcons this year—especially when Paul Worrilow was hurt. He earned the seventh-best PFF grade on Atlanta’s defense thanks to his consistent tackling sound pass coverage skills.

Ricardo Allen: A fifth-round draft pick in 2014, Allen quickly rose from a practice squad cornerback to Atlanta’s starting free safety. His three interceptions led the team in 2015; his PFF pass coverage grade (3.3) was second on the defense, behind only Desmond Trufant’s.