The Atlanta Falcons are looking to prove that their combined record of 10-22 over the past two seasons was simply a fluke. The Falcons were active early and often this offseason. They signed multiple free agents and brought in a new coach in Dan Quinn.
Quinn has experience building a dominant defense from his time as the Seattle Seahawks' defensive coordinator.The question is, can Quinn revamp this defense in Atlanta just one season?
With the regular season set to kick off on Thursday, here are the five most important things we learned from the Falcons' preseason.
1. Dan Quinn will find a pass rush, no matter what it takes
The Falcons need to find an answer for generating pressure off the edge. With the No. 8 overall pick, the Falcons selected former Clemson star Vic Beasley, who has all the makings of a player who can upgrade the pass rush. One year removed from tallying just 22 team sacks, tied for second-worst in the NFL, Quinn is going to make sure the Falcons defense gets to the quarterback in 2015, no matter what.
2. Julio Jones was never going anywhere
After seeing both wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas land huge contract extensions, all eyes turned to Julio Jones. Would he get extended this offseason? A few weeks into training camp, Jones was signed. He landed a five-year, $71.25 million deal, with $47 million guaranteed. Was there ever a question of Jones leaving town?
3. The offensive line is still a major concern
No one really knows exactly what to expect from the Atlanta Falcons offensive line in 2015. The Falcons still need to find the right group of players who can both protect quarterback Matt Ryan, while also getting the run game going. Left tackle Jake Matthews suffered a back strain against the Miami Dolphins, but should be a full-go to start the 2015 season. Matthews will hopefully anchor a line that improved last Friday by trading for veteran guard Andy Levitre. Although Levitre has struggled in recent seasons, he is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahn's zone-blocking scheme.
4. The Falcons are going to utilize all three RB's in Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Antone Smith
Kyle Shanahan loves using his running backs, and he will stick with the hot hand. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman dealt with hamstring strains that kept them sidelines for multiple weeks, which means the RB competition will carry into the regular season. While those two are expected to be the two battling for the main role, don't expect the Falcons to ignore the homerun-hitting Antone Smith either.
5. Atlanta doesn't love their backup QB situation
Quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree were battling for the backup quarterback gig behind Matt Ryan when the Falcons went and threw a new player into the mix. The Falcons chose to sign 35-year-old QB Rex Grossman to put into the competition, and many actually believed he had a shot to earn the No. 2 spot behind Ryan.
In the end, the Falcons chose to cut Grossman, which in turn shows that the team may have just been looking to push Yates and Renfree. Regardless, Atlanta wasn't, and probably still isn't, completely sold on their backup quarterback situation.
For more on the Atlanta Falcons and the rest of the NFC South, follow Jeff on Twitter @JSM8ith. You can also check out all of the FOX Sports NFC South team pages for live updates and analysis.