Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/18/12
Success is a funny thing, how subjectively it’s measured.

When head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff took the wheel for the franchise, they transformed the culture and the roster of the organization to become a perennial winner.

Over the course of the past four seasons, the inability to translate regular season success into playoff wins has put a damper on the excitement.

We look at three areas keeping the Falcons from becoming one of the NFL’s dynasties.

How can Michael Turner and the running game become dominant again?

When the Falcons acquired Turner from the Chargers, he carried the nickname “Burner" Turner and possessed big-play ability that often overshadowed then-dominant LaDa-nian Tomlinson. After enduring four seasons of mammoth workloads, Turner has transitioned from dominant to merely dependable, with an extreme drop-off in production towards the end of the past two seasons.

In order to eliminate fatigue, the Falcons will be embracing the NFL’s backfield trend, a running back by committee approach. By decreasing his workload, Turner should be fresh and effective when the playoffs roll around.

The Falcons already have two other perfectly capable backs on their roster in Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers. Both are outstanding receivers out of the backfield, an area in which Turner is lacking, and they have unique running talents.

Snelling is a bruising back, tipping the scales at 234 pounds. He can provide more power and success running between the tackles than Turner, although with less big-play ability. He has never shown the ability to be more than a complementary back, so Snelling opted to return to Atlanta in a part-time role after testing the free agent waters.

Rodgers, drafted in 2011 out of Oregon State, has home run potential every time he touches the ball. He is the best receiver out of the three backs and is much more powerful than given credit due to standing only 5’6” tall. He still manages to pack 196 pounds on his frame, mostly in his lower body, allowing him to break tackles by maintaining balance through contact.

New offensive coordinator Dick Koetter made Maurice Jones-Drew great in Jacksonville with a supporting cast which can not compare to the talent in Atlanta. Expect to see Koetter take a liking to his new dynamic yet diminutive back in Rodgers, who could have a monster season and become the MoJo to Turner’s Fred Taylor.

Will Julio Jones take the next step towards becoming an elite receiver?

In all fairness, Jones’ 2011 expectations may have been set much higher than they should have been after the Falcons gave up an almost Hershel-Walker-trade-sized bounty of draft picks to move up in the Draft and snag him.

The Falcons had the luxury of having a stacked roster with very few holes that they needed to fill through the Draft. Although his numbers ended up being comparable to fellow rookie A.J. Green, whose careers will always be linked due to draft position, his potential was often overshadowed by his tendency to drop passes.

In a recent SportsCenter, Jerry Rice predicted Jones to be the breakout wide receiver in 2012. Rice himself had a bad case of the drops early in his career, a period overshadowed in history by Rice becoming the greatest receiver ever. He managed to work through it and believes that Jones can, too.

While Jones was often used on deep sideline routes due to his blinding speed, look for him to run a larger variety of routes, like slants, screens and stick routes, in order to take advantage of his enormous yards-after-catch ability. With Tony Gonzalez defying father time and Roddy White being targeted by team's No. 1 cornerback, look for Jones to take advantage of single coverage and justify the ransom the Falcons spent on him.

How will Atlanta improve their pass rush?

“Matty Ice” is the moniker given to Matt Ryan for his ability late in games to architect comeback wins. Ryan has too often been put in a situation where a comeback is needed, in part because the Falcons' defense has allowed opposing offenses to put up points in large chunks.

Although they have a talented secondary, bolstered by the arrival of Asante Samuel, any quarterback given enough time in a clean pocket will beat the best cover corner.

On one side of the defensive line, John Abraham has been an effective pass rusher for years. At this point in his career he will be mainly utilized as a situational pass rusher, ceding his spot to Kroy Biermann on early downs. The Falcons signed Ray Edwards last season to man the edge on the other side, enamored with his potential as a three-down end based on his time in Minnesota.

Without Jared Allen and Kevin Williams commanding double teams, Edwards did not produce at a level that was expected when he inked his five year contract with Atlanta. After producing at least 8 sacks in each of his last two years with the Vikings, Edwards only registered 3.5 with the Falcons in 2011. Laurence Sidbury posted 4 in spot duty, appearing in only 11 games.

Despite Edwards' disappointing season, Mike Smith believed in the talent level of his front seven, including defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux, and determined the ineffective pass rush to be a result of his defensive coordinator’s scheme, not the lack of talent on the line.

The Falcons named Mike Nolan to run the defense, with his track record of success as a coordinator. Having learned his lesson when he tried to immediately switch the Broncos’ 4-3 defense to a 3-4 alignment in 2009, he will be using the pieces he has in place to run a hybrid front, like he ran in Baltimore as their defensive coordinator.

Nolan has authored many defenses which excelled at disrupting the quarterback, from the Ravens to the Giants to the Jets. With Gang Green he was running the defense when they drafted Abraham and is familiar with his strengths. Sometimes Abraham will play with his hand in the dirt, sometimes in a two-point stance, but Nolan will move him around more to take advantage of weaknesses in pass protection.

With Nolan running an attacking and versatile defense, the Atlanta front seven will generate more pressure. His defense is very effective by being complex, but with the group’s experience level and the underrated making play-making ability of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, looks for the Falcons to more disruptive than ever in 2012.

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