Q&A With Sports Illustrated's Peter King

Jay Adams: What are some of the things you're looking for out here for the Falcons?

Peter King: The difference in the size of the lines, particularly on defense. (Paul) Soliai is potentially a huge difference-maker. Soliai and Tyson Jackson together on run downs, I mean, I just don't think you're going to be able to run very much on first down against this team. And then, I just want to watch (Jake) Matthews. I've never seen the guy and I just saw him stone the guy across him on seven straight plays going down the field. He's really an interesting guy because all along, the Falcons thought he's the guy who's most ready to play opening day, the most NFL-ready guy. I think they put a lot of eggs in his basket and he's got to come through. I wouldn't be surprised if by mid-season, people are saying he's their best offensive lineman — maybe earlier than that. Those are the things I want to see, and then some of the other answers, you want to look at the tight end position, but I think mostly the improvement on this team has to be involving physicality.

JA: What can a healthy Julio Jones do for this Falcons team in 2014?

PK: Well, if you take Julio Jones away from Matt Ryan, Matt Ryan's not going to be as good a quarterback, and when I talked to him, he talked openly about, 'I want to complete 70 percent of my balls.' Everybody has lofty goals and all that stuff, but if you take into account that he's already an accurate passer, he's probably going to get significantly better protection from his right side this year, he's got Julio Jones back, I think the combination of that means that — I'm not sure that he's going to complete 70 — but I wouldn't be surprised if he completes 67 (percent). There's a reason they traded so much for Julio Jones, and when he's healthy, as he did in the playoffs — in the playoffs, he had an ownership game and I just think he's a top 10 receiver, easy. Take a top 10 receiver away from any team, and especially any quarterback, and that team is going to be significantly diminished.

JA: What's your outlook on the NFC South?

PK: The Saints are the best team. The Panthers, I think are going to take a step back because their offensive line, they had four guys on their offensive line retire. The entire left side, one of the five best left sides in football with Travelle Wharton and Jordan Gross retired. Gross retired almost in his prime, so I just think everybody's talking about the receiver position with them — rightfully so — but I'd be more concerned if I were Cam Newton about his line, not his receivers. Tampa, I haven't seen Tampa yet, but I'm fascinated to see them, to take a look. If you're Tampa Bay and you have a totally new regime in and you enter this season, in my mind, the fourth best team in the division, I think they've set realistic expectations, and I think they could exceed them. I think this is gonna really be a good division. I think it's a real dangerous division. I think the Saints are serious Super Bowl contenders and I think the Falcons will be back. How well they'll be back, we'll see.

JA: If the team does stay healthy, if the moves to shore up the lines are successful, do you see a turnaround in the future for this 2014 Falcons team?

PK: I do, because the one thing they have done is that they attacked their problems in the offseason. They didn't just make a few cosmetic changes. They attacked their problems, so when you do that and you do it successfully, you usually have the opportunity right away to see some benefit to that. I think they absolutely, unequivocally, are going to be improved if only because, I think particularly on the lines, they're just going to be a lot more physical.

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