With Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas' contracts in place, it wouldn't be surprising if Julio Jones' extension were completed before the season. It may happen before XFINITY® Training Camp begins on Friday. The two sides have plenty of time to carve out a deal before it becomes an issue. Jones has made it clear he wants to stay here; he will not hold out, and he won't be a distraction.
Rodney S.: Obviously every team wants to go 16-0, but realistically... what regular season record does the front office need to consider 2015 a success?
I can't speak for the front office, but in my opinion, any record above .500 would be satisfactory. Remember: Atlanta came extremely close to finishing at 8-8 last year. The roster has since improved; the new coaching staff appears to be the right one; the schedule, at least on paper, is relatively lean. A 9-7 or 10-6 mark is not unrealistic.
Harris D: What is being done to get better effective production from Matt Ryan, particularly on 3rd downs and red zone TD's?
The enhanced depth at wide receiver will certainly help Matt Ryan, as will a healthier offensive line (knock on wood). Moreover, tight ends Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki should help — especially during third downs and in the red zone. Tony Gonzalez left a gaping vacancy at TE when he retired, and Levine Toilolo, perhaps not ready for a starting role, tallied just 238 receiving yards in 2014. On the other hand, Tamme and Moeaki are proven veterans, both of whom are capable of racking up 500-plus receiving yards. Odds are one will emerge as a dependable option for Ryan during high-pressure situations.
Shaun S: Which WR are you hoping to shutdown the most?
The receiver I'm most concerned about is Dez Bryant (the Falcons play in Dallas on Sept. 27). He and Jones are two of the best WRs in the world, and each will surely bring his A game when the two face off in Dallas.
Jason M: Will Antone Smith's role be the same this season? Also can he bounce back from his injury?
Antone Smith's role will probably be similar to the one he assumed last year. As far as his leg is concerned, he looked fine at minicamp and exhibited no visible signs of injury. However, it's still unclear if he's near 100 percent health. If he is, and if still has the explosiveness that made him so dangerous, he should get his fair share of reps. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will duke it out for the bulk of the carries, but Smith can still provide a lot of value as a change-of-pace back.