A post-draft look at the Falcons’ 2017 opponents: The Saints, Game 15

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. (Associated Press)

FLOWERY BRANCH — A look at the teams on the Falcons’ schedule and how they have reconstructed their roster since the season’s end. We’re up to Game 15, when the Falcons travel to face the New Orleans Saints on Christmas Eve

GAME 15 Falcons at New Orleans 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24

No longer with the Saints: S Jairus Byrd, OG Jahri Evans, OG Tim Lelito, CB, B.W. Webb, RB Tim Hightower, WR Brandin Cooks and  LB Kasim Edebali.

Key free agent signings/pickups: RB Adrian Peterson, OG Larry Warford, LB A.J. Klein, WR Ted Ginn Jr., LB Manti T’eo, LB Alex Okafor and QB Chase Daniel.

New Orleans Saints’   2017 NFL draft

1 11 Marshon Lattimore CB Ohio State
1 32 Ryan Ramczyk T Wisconsin
2 42 Marcus Williams SAF Utah
3 67 Alvin Kamara RB Tennessee
3 76 Alex Anzalone LB Florida
3 103 Trey Hendrickson DE Florida Atlantic
6 196 Al-Quadin Muhammad DE Miami (Fla.)

Weaknesses: The Saints moved to improve their rushing attack by signing Peterson and adding Kamara in the draft. They were 31st in kickoff return yardage and the defense was ranked 27th overall total yards allowed at 375.4 yards per game.

Strengths: Brees is still dangerous as the Saints were No. 1  in total yards per game at 426.  The play of receivers Michael Thomas and Willie Snead made the Saints comfortable enough to trade Cooks. Peterson and Mark Ingram should provide a better rushing attack with Kamara talking on the old Reggie Bush/third down role. A more balanced offensive attack will keep the shaky defense off the field more.

Comment: The Saints finished 9-7 for the third consecutive season which led to a shake up on the coaching staff. Former defensive line coach Bill Johnson’s contract expired and he landed with the St. Louis Rams. The Saints need to make major strides of defense to break their recent cycle of losing.


FALCONS SCHEDULE

Exhibition season

Falcons at Miami Dolphins at 7 p.m. Aug. 10

Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers at 4 p.m. Aug. 20

Arizona Cardinals at Falcons at 7 p.m. Aug. 26

Jacksonville Jaguars at Falcons at 7 p.m. Aug. 31

Regular season

Sept. 10 at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., Fox

Sept. 17 Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. NBC

Sept. 24 at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. Fox

Oct. 1 Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 8 BYE

Oct. 15 Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 22 at New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Oct. 29 at New York Jets, 1 p.m., Fox

Nov. 5 at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

Nov. 12 Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Nov. 20 at Seattle Seahawks (Mon) 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Nov. 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 3 Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 7 New Orleans Saints (Thur), 8:25 p.m., NBC/NFL Network/Amazon

Dec. 18 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mon). 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 24 at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 31 Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT

MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert

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