Q&A With NFL Media's Jeff Darlington

Jay Adams: What are you keeping an eye on here at Falcons camp?

Jeff Darlington: I think Thomas (Dimitroff) definitely put a priority on making sure that the trenches were a much more physical group, much more — you know the words they like to use — gritty, physical, and I think that they've accomplished that. I'm just curious to see how they match up with one another. When you have guys like Jake Matthews on one side and Paul Soliai on the other, I think you're very capable of having the type of physical group that the Falcons were looking to have.

JA: On NFL Network on Tuesday, you provided an update on Julio Jones. What's a healthy Julio going to do for the 2014 Falcons?

JD: There's no question the most important thing for everyone, both nationally and locally, is the health of Julio Jones. Everybody knows what he's capable of doing when he is healthy. He's a game-changer. Last year, I picked the Falcons in the preseason to win the Super Bowl and for Matt Ryan to be the MVP, and as dumb as it might seem in retrospect, I don't know what they would have been capable of doing if Julio was in the mix. I'm not saying they would have won the Super Bowl, but I think that that was such a huge loss for this team so early on — all the injuries they suffered were, but that one is at the top of the list.

JA: If this team is able to stay healthy and if the moves that they made in the trenches work out in their favor, what do you see as the potential for this team in 2014?

JD: I would say that they have the potential that I thought they had last year. Again, I don't think I'm going to be picking them like I did last year to win the Super Bowl because of what we're seeing around the league, this rise from teams like the Seahawks, the 49ers, so (the Falcons) have got to get themselves back into the mix, especially in a really tough division, where Tampa is obviously improving, the Saints are still a solid team, Carolina, I think will regress quite a bit, but when you've got those three teams, it makes it pretty tough. Now, all three I could see making the playoffs — I think this division is that good.

JA: What are your impressions of what you've heard and seen of Jake Matthews?

JD: I think when you go into the offseason saying that you want to become a more physical team, you've got to address the trenches and you've got to protect your franchise quarterback, so it makes great sense to make sure that you take the best available blocker at the earliest possible time. I don't think that they shied away from that. Thomas has never been one to shy away from a great need. We know that from the Julio Jones trade and I think that with Jake, it was obvious that they needed it. I know that everybody wants to focus on value, not need, but that was a need. Maybe it seems they'll also get the value out of it, too.

JA: What are your thoughts on the additions of Mike Tice and Bryan Cox to the coaching staff?

JD: I think anytime, with Cox especially, anytime you can get guys with that experience on the field, you're going to gain the respect of your players. I see that everywhere I go. I think that will be a huge asset for the team.

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