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Atlanta Falcons 2014 Training Camp Preview

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) -

REPORT DATES: July 22 (rookies), July 24 (veterans)

SITE: Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Flowery Branch, GA

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Falcons, who struggled to a mark of 4-12 in 2013 after falling to San Francisco in the 2012 NFC title game, will be the NFL team featured this summer on HBO's "Hard Knocks" program, the series which takes a behind-the-scenes look at training camp.

"We are excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond," said Falcons owner Arthur Blank. "This marks the first time that our franchise will be featured on Hard Knocks and we look forward to showcasing our great players and coaches to football fans all across America."

Among the most compelling storylines figures to be the shift to an attacking 3-4 defensive scheme under Mike Nolan, a change made far more difficult after the devastating offseason loss of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Weatherspoon's potential replacements, 2013 undrafted college free agent Joplo Bartu and nondescript veteran Tim Dobbins, are significant downgrades.

KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: The Falcons had visions of trading up for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, South Carolina star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, but that was cost prohibitive so they stayed put at No. 6 and went with offensive tackle Jake Matthews, a safe pick at a need position.

KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: General manager Thomas Dimitroff was intent on getting bigger and more physical up front, and he took some significant strides in that direction during free agency, bringing in run-stuffer Paul Soliai from Miami and big, five-technique defensive end Tyson Jackson. Both need to anchor well against the run for the 3-4 to work in Dixie.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):

Aug 8 - vs. Miami, 7:00 PM Aug 16 - at Houston, 8:00 PM Aug 23 - vs. Tennessee, 7:00 PM Aug 28 - at Jacksonville, 6:00 PM

07/17 12:47:15 ET

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