NFL.com's Bucky Brooks thinks the Falcons have a shot at being the best offense in the NFC next season.
Brooks believes the addition of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will help transform Atlanta's offense into a more efficient machine, taking some of the things they've done well in the past and mixing it with a few key additions, specifically a screen-passing game.
Koetter's presence in Atlanta means quarterback Matt Ryan will be able to utilize play-action and two-back sets, two types of offensive attacks that will work to Ryan's strengths as an accurate passer and a quarterback that takes care of the ball. Brooks sees an Atlanta offense with a lot of playmakers, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas to name a few, and believes Koetter will work to free up those players with the ball in their hands.
White and Jones are of particular interest to Brooks. He thinks both receivers will be able to run routes that utilize their strength and quickness. Quick passes could be Atlanta's specialty, letting Matt Ryan hit the two receivers on the move and allowing them to do what they do best: run with the ball in their hands and make people miss.
It's already been established that Atlanta will have a screen game in 2012 and will use it much more than they have in recent seasons. All of Atlanta's offensive weapons will be involved in it, but second-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers perhaps has the most to gain from the addition. Brooks points out Koetter's effective use of a two-back system in Jacksonville in the past and thinks Michael Turner and Rodgers make a similar tandem to what the coordinator had in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Turner will be the hard-charging back, battering offenses with his heavy-load style of running. Rodgers will obviously represent a change-of-pace element, but he could also be used heavily in the screen game. Rodgers caught 21 passes last season, one for a touchdown. That total will probably go up in 2012 and with Turner keeping defenses honest in their respect for the Falcons' running game, Rodgers can break teams with his ability on the edges as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
Finally Brooks anticipates an improved offensive line under the direction of new line coach Pat Hill. The former Fresno State head coach has come to Atlanta and immediately stressed a fundamental style of offensive line play. Brooks thinks Hill will not only make the Falcons' offensive line more fundamentally sound but will help re-establish them as a dominant line that out-works the opponent.
He points to Atlanta's playoff loss to the Giants and two plays in particular when the offensive line failed to give Ryan and the offense what they needed to convert short-yardage fourth downs. A beefed-up line combined with Hill's sound coaching could help Atlanta correct those flaws quickly.
"On both plays, the offensive line failed to generate enough push for Ryan to gain a yard on a quarterback sneak, and the failures highlighted the Falcons' lack of toughness up front," Brooks wrote. "The arrival of Hill should rectify that problem and allow the Falcons to pound opponents with a smash-mouth ground attack."
Atlanta may have found just the right mix with new blood through the coaching changes and draft pick additions and the weapons in place to finally see a return in the investment that has been made all over the offense. If Brooks is right, the Falcons' offense could be more high-flying than ever and in the modern era of NFL football where scoring reigns supreme, things could be very promising for the upcoming season.