Atlanta Falcons 2014 Regular Season Schedule

Head coach Mike Smith is confident his Falcons will return to the playoffs this season. (Kevin C. Cox)

Head coach Mike Smith is confident his Falcons will return to the playoffs this season. (Kevin C. Cox)

The NFL regular season schedule for the 2014 season has been released.

After last season’s 4-12 campaign, the Atlanta Falcons have just two primetime games: Week 3 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football and Week 14 at the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

There’s also the London matchup in Week 8 against the Detroit Lions.

Here’s Atlanta’s schedule in its entirety:

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Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 Preseason Schedule

The NFL has released the preseason schedule for the 2014 NFL season.

Here are the Atlanta Falcons’ opponents:

Week 1: Miami Dolphins

Week 2: at Houston Texans

Week 3: Tennessee Titans

Week 4: at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Falcons have played the Jaguars every year since 2008 when Mike Smith became head coach, with 2009 being the lone exception.

The Dolphins have also consistently been preseason opponents.

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Falcons Sign CB Josh Wilson, S Dwight Lowery

Josh Wilson provides depth in Atlanta's secondary. (Scott Cunningham)

Josh Wilson provides depth in Atlanta’s secondary. (Scott Cunningham)

The Atlanta Falcons bolstered their secondary depth a bit, signing cornerback Josh Wilson and safety Dwight Lowery.

Wilson spent last season with the Washington Redskins. He started all 16 games, amassing 93 tackles, two sacks, one interception, and two forced fumbles.

He also was on the receiving end of a Steven Jackson touchdown run in Week 15.

Second-year players Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are locked in as the starting cornerbacks, so Wilson will likely compete with Robert McClain for the nickelback spot.

After releasing Thomas DeCoud, the Falcons had a gaping hole at free safety. An attempt to sign the New Orleans Saints’ restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush failed after the Saints matched the Falcons’ offer.

Lowery isn’t the answer at free safety, but he provides veteran depth. He spent last season on injured reserve after appearing in three games with the Jacksonville Jaguars, then was released on November 4.

Expect the Falcons to draft a safety in the draft.

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Falcons Awarded Three Compensatory Picks

The Falcons have three extra draft picks to work with. (Gary A. Vasquez)

The Falcons have three extra draft picks to work with. (Gary A. Vasquez)

The Atlanta Falcons were awarded three compensatory draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft: a fourth-rounder and two seventh-rounders.

The Falcons were given the extra draft picks based on last season’s free agent loses: cornerbacks Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins) and Chris Owens (Cleveland Browns), tackle Will Svitek (New England Patriots), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (Oakland Raiders).

As it stands now, the Falcons have 10 picks in the upcoming draft.

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Devin Hester Agrees to Three-Year Deal with Falcons

Devin Hester vastly upgrades the Falcons' return game. (Matthew Stockman)

Devin Hester vastly upgrades the Falcons’ return game. (Matthew Stockman)

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with return specialist Devin Hester on a three-year deal.

Hester was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round (57th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he set an NFL record with six return touchdowns, including a punt return for a touchdown in his debut.

The Falcons haven’t had a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown since 2010 – back with Eric Weems returning kicks.

Last season, Atlanta averaged 24.4 yards per kick return and 8.3 yards per punt return.

Hester will undoubtedly fix those woes – last season, he averaged 27.6 yards per kick return and 14.2 yards per punt return, including a touchdown.

He also holds the NFL record for most career kick and punt returns for touchdowns with 18.

He’s gained 5,504 yards on 222 kick returns and 3,241 yards on 264 punt returns. Yes, Hester’s markedly dangerous.

But don’t expect him to just return kicks:

For his career, Hester has totaled 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns.

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Falcons Bring Back Peria Jerry

Peria Jerry, for whatever reason, is back. (Rich Addicks)

Peria Jerry, for whatever reason, is back. (Rich Addicks)

The Atlanta Falcons have re-signed defensive tackle Peria Jerry.

I couldn’t tell you why. It seemed the Falcons had no interest in bringing the first-round draft pick bust back, but alas.

Atlanta selected Jerry in the first round (24th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of his rookie year and hasn’t seemed to recover.

Jerry did have the best season of his career last year, totaling 33 tackles and three and a half sacks in 14 starts.

Also, the Falcons signed cornerback Javier Arenas to a one-year deal. Arenas was a draft pick of Scott Pioli while he was the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, so there’s a bit of familiarity there.  He was selected in the second round (50th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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Roddy White: We’re running a 3-4 this year

Roddy White's always been candid. (Dale Zanine)

Roddy White’s always been candid. (Dale Zanine)

If there’s one thing Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White doesn’t do is hold his tongue.

After the Falcons went out and signed nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson on the first day of free agency, it was clear the plan was to have a more 3-4 based defense.

With his latest tweet, White removed any doubt and gave an indicator as to what type of pass rusher the Falcons may sign:

White’s always been candid with his tweets, so this holds a bit more weight than any variant of the standard coach-speak of “we’re going to run multiple fronts.”

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Falcons Get Tougher; Sign RG Asamoah, DE Jackson, NT Soliai

Beefing up the lines is exactly what the Falcons needed to do. (Kevin Liles)

Beefing up the lines is exactly what the Falcons needed to do. (Kevin Liles)

The Atlanta Falcons knew they had to get tougher, beginning with both the offensive and defensive lines.

And with free agency officially underway, getting tougher is exactly what the Falcons did.

They agreed to terms with right guard Jon Asamoah and defensive end Tyson Jackson, both former members of the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s safe to say assistant general manager (and former general manager of the Chiefs) Scott Pioli had some say in the two signings.

Atlanta also agreed to terms with nose tackle Paul Soliai.

Asamoah will be an immediate starter and a significant upgrade at the right guard position. He’s a polished pass blocker and will provide Matt Ryan with much-needed protection.

The signings of Jackson and Soliai show the Falcons are moving toward a 3-4 look – defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s specialty.

It’s early, but it looks like the Falcons are headed back in the right direction.

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Falcons Release Safety DeCoud

After his abysmal 2013 campaign, Thomas DeCoud's release was imminent. (Mike Ehrmann)

After his abysmal 2013 campaign, Thomas DeCoud’s release was imminent. (Mike Ehrmann)

As expected, the Atlanta Falcons have released free safety Thomas DeCoud.

After putting together a Pro Bowl (alternate) season in 2012, DeCoud’s play in 2013 fell significantly. In 2012, he led the Falcons with six interceptions. Last season, he generated no turnovers, and was a severe liability (along with the rest of the Atlanta defense) in the run game.

The Falcons drafted DeCoud in the third round (98th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. He became a full-time starter in 2009.

DeCoud was awarded with a five-year, $17.5 million deal in 2011.

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Falcons Bring Back DT Babineaux, C Hawley

Jonathan Babineaux's ability to get into the backfield is key for the Falcons. (John Froschauer)

Jonathan Babineaux’s ability to get into the backfield is key for the Falcons. (John Froschauer)

With the 4:00 p.m. EST free agency start time looming, the Atlanta Falcons brought a couple of their free agents back.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux agreed to a three-year extension a couple of hours ago:

And center Joe Hawley agreed to a two-year deal:

Both are good signings for Atlanta. Babineaux has spent his entire career with the Falcons and has been an underrated, disruptive tackle.

Hawley played well once he usurped the starting gig from Peter Konz. The two centers will compete for the starting spot with Hawley the likely winner.

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