After a long offseason of waiting and disappointment, we finally have official NFL football activities! The Falcons will begin their first program on Tuesday, and show the promise of making another run at the postseason this year after falling short again in 2011.
Here are five thoughts to keep in mind as the team conducts their first drills of the offseason:
1- Can Peter Konz win a starting job out of camp?
The Falcons offensive line was easily the weakest link on the 2011 squad. That was painfully evident at multiple points throughout the season, and especially in the postseason. But with a new offensive coordinator, line coach and some new faces in uniform, the group could very well have a turnaround year.
A lot of that will depend on Konz's ability to make an early impact. The Falcons are built to win now. Whether at center or guard, he'll need to show the coaching staff that he's ready to take on pro-level talent and those massive nose tackles.
As a four-year senior coming from Wisconsin, traditionally known for producing tough offensive linemen, I think his chances are pretty good.
2- What does Mike Nolan have in store on defense?
First, a quick offseason review: the Falcons re-signed John Abraham and Thomas DeCoud. They also signed Lofa Tatupu and traded for Asante Samuel.
Add in other defensive stalwarts like Sean Weatherspoon or Corey Peters and it's not a stretch to say that Atlanta's new defensive coordinator has oodles of talent to work into his new system.
But what exactly will the defense look like? Who will flourish? Will struggling players like Dunta Robinson have turnaround seasons? Will young stars like Spoon Jones and William Moore continue to improve and develop? OTAs should give us a glimpse of what to expect on defense.
3- Has Matt Ryan gotten swoll?
Word around the league had it that Ryan has been hitting the weights this offseason in order to bulk up and make sure he doesn't fade physically down the stretch and into the postseason.
And it's only natural to think if Ryan's arm strength has improved at all, as well. We know he's accurate, and in all honesty his deep accuracy got some unfair criticism last season (seventh in completions over 40 yards last season). But with a little more pepper on the ball and lots of weapons, Ryan could be in for a monster 2012.
4- How will the wideout/tight end depth chart shake out?
The Falcons have Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez set in stone as the team's primary pass catchers on offense.
Or do they? New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter may have a few more tricks up his sleeve than Mularkey and his fan favorite run-run-pass offense. Both positions are very thin beyond the named starters, and there are tons of intriguing names on the offseason roster.
There Kerry Meier, fifth-round draft pick who's career was stalled by a knee injury. Kevin Cone, the local product. James Rodgers, little brother to Atlanta's own Jacquizz. Former Bulldawg Aron White. Boise State's Tommy Gallarda.
The door is wide open, and anyone who impresses could slip right through.
5- Who will take over as the team's new return man?
Eric Weems is left Georgia for a three-year contract at Soldier Field, and now Atlanta has no return man.
Harry Douglas and Dominique Franks both have experience returning kicks and punts, but there's also other, less-proven options available like Cody Pearcy, Antone Smith, James Rodgers or his brother Jacquizz. Much like wide receiver, the team's full of unknowns and it could be anyone's job to win.