SportsTalkATL’s Mailbag Monday: Questions From You the Fans

Posted on Jul 13 2015 - 9:18am by Michael Arkin

 

Championships are one of the hardest things to predict in sports. In my opinion, I believe all the teams have a great chance to win sooner than later. The Braves have been stockpiling young talent and have implemented a new system that should leave this team with high aspirations in 2016 and 2017. The Falcons went through a rough patch, but they too are implementing a new way of doing things (i.e. Dan Quinn). They won’t win it this year, but do not be surprised if they slide their way in the playoffs with the easiest schedule in the NFL. Then you have the Atlanta Hawks, who in my mind have the best opportunity to win soon. They have an ample amount of talent with the reigning NBA Coach of the Year at the helm. The Eastern Conference added more talent during NBA Free Agency, but I think the Hawks biggest foe will be Cleveland once again. With Atlanta making the Eastern Conference Finals last season, they now have had that experience. Get over the hump of Lebron James and Cleveland, and Atlanta will likely seal their ticket to the NBA Finals.

If you read my article on Julio Jones being the best professional athlete in Atlanta, you see I have him ranked second in the league. I have watched him since his high school days, throughout his college days, and obviously now as a professional. He is everything you want in not just a wide receiver, but teammate. My list is Calvin Johnson as the best, Julio Jones at number two, and Dez Bryant right on Jones’ tail at three. People outside Atlanta fail to realize how valuable Jones is, even when he is not in the play. Antonio Brown is my number four, as he has been exceptional for the Steelers.

That’s a tough one to answer, but I’ll give it my best. First off, Atlanta needs to have a top 10 defense overall this season. Not just that, but Atlanta needs to find a way to hit the opposing quarterback. Dan Quinn and Richard Smith’s new defensive scheme gameplan will heavily involve blitzes, stunts, and other ways to hit the quarterback. Also, whoever starts at free safety needs to be ready by Week 1, because I guarantee he will be heavily targeted by opposing offensive coordinators. I think with the free agent additions and rookies coming in, the defense will take a leap up from last year. That might not say much, but the Falcons front office decided to bring experience (Brooks Reed and Justin Durant) and youth (Vic Beasley and Jalen Collins) who should be starting from day 1. Onto the offense, the offensive line needs to stay HEALTHY and gel as a group. The offensive line has been the achilles for Atlanta the past two seasons, and Matt Ryan has paid the price. Expect Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to bring back a legitimate running game. The offensive line and running game will be key for Atlanta this year, as Matt Ryan and the receivers are already dependable. Lastly, coaching should have a big factor. There were times last year when former head coach Mike Smith would make quick and rash decisions, without thinking of the repercussions. It was a big reason why Atlanta lost to Detroit last year, costing them a shot to win the NFC South. The division should be better, but it is still a week division. The Falcons have the easiest schedule in the NFL, and looking at that schedule, it is hard to imagine them losing a lot of games. Hopefully 2015 will be a success, and the success will follow in the upcoming years.

This is one all up to the Braves’ front office. In my opinion, I think the Braves need one more bat in order to make a playoff run. I did not have high expectations for this team coming into the year, but now I believe this team can make the playoffs. However, they are currently 5 games below .500 and 7 games out in the division after being swept by the Rockies. The next two weeks will dictate whether the team will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. The Braves have a lot of pitchers in the majors and minors, so they have valuable assets that other teams could be shopping for. However, it’s unlikely John Hart trades away any young talent unless the return is great. According to the MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, the Braves have been rumored to possibly moving Chris Johnson, Jonny Gomes, and Jason Grilli. Grilli went down Saturday with a ruptured achilles, so throw his name out. Any player over the age of 30, excluding Nick Markakis, is a candidate to be traded. If the playoffs don’t look to be a realistic option, the team will look to move veterans to add pieces that will benefit the team in the long run. If the Braves do end being buyers, they could definitely use a power bat. However, 2015 is likely not the year it happens, barring a hot steak coming out of the All-Star Break.

Expect Tiago Splitter to be the sixth man. One of the most underrated transactions during free agency was the Hawks acquiring Splitter via trade. The Hawks have the option to go with a small or big lineup, depending on the situation. Splitter also will get rebounds, something Atlanta lacked in last season. With Millsap re-signing, the Hawks have a very exciting frontcourt. During games, Splitter can play the 5 and Horford can slide down to the 4. Splitter could easily start, but he’s not starting over Horford or Millsap. Do not expect Millsap to be playing at small forward much, if at all, during the season. Splitter won’t be starting, but he is a valuable asset coming off the bench for Atlanta, and he might be finishing a lot of games at the end of the fourth quarter.

I think Freeman will be starting Week 1, but don’t be surprised to see Coleman taking over the reigns at midseason. People are vastly underrating Freeman, as he has only been in the league for one year. He showed flashes of potential. Remember Week 16 against the Saints when he busted through for a 31 yard game-changing touchdown? If that player shows up in 2015, he’ll be starting. Problem for Freeman (good problem for the Falcons) is that Tevin Coleman’s potential is through the roof. He has yet to play an NFL down, but what he did in college was incredible. The running back battle will definitely be one to watch as the season is coming up soon.

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