The Falcons will once again be one of the NFL’s best teams, especially on offense. There is no denying they are loaded with offensive skill players, led by Matt Ryan. The big question is the defense. They’ve added a lot of key, young players on that side of the ball, but they will be asking them to grow up quickly.

Coach Mike Smith has preached to his team that they weren’t 10 yards from a Super Bowl, which they were in their NFC title game loss to the 49ers last January, but instead they are five months away from it.

Translation: Work to get there.

The talent says they will be in the mix again. Can they finally get over the hump?

With Ryan and his up-tempo offense, the Falcons have the ingredients to be one of the league’s highest-scoring teams. Ryan loves playing for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and it shows. Koetter allowed Ryan more chances last season down the field than he had in his first four seasons.

It makes sense with Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside and Tony Gonzalez at tight end. All three are among the best in the league at what they do. Jones should be ready to stake a claim as one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers this season. He is bigger, stronger and much more comfortable in the offense.

The addition of veteran runner Steven Jackson will help the running game, but it will also play a big role in the…

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