The Falcons started the 2019 season with a 1-7 record. Atlanta finished the season at 7-9, saving Dan Quinn’s job in the process. The offense is now without Devonta Freeman who still hasn’t signed with a team and has been replaced by Todd Gurley who is returning to Georgia. The defense is still undergoing a major reconstruction, the reason why Atlanta only ranks 21st.
- Overall – 79.31 (21st)
- Offense – 82.85 (10th)
- Defense – 75.815 (27th)
- Coach and Culture – 81.5 (T-14th)
- Home Field Advantage – 79, 21st (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 84.5, 9th (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Matt Ryan had an MVP-like season in 2018 and took a step back last year. Ryan threw for over 4,400 yards again last year and threw 26 touchdowns. The 12 interceptions he threw were the third-most in his career and the most he’s thrown since 2015. The offensive line didn’t make his life any better, which we’ll get to later but Ryan’s lack of mobility doesn’t help. Ryan is backed up by Matt Schaub, who might be in the last year of his career. Schaub threw 67 passes last year and completed 50 of them for 580 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception.
Behind the two veterans are two intriguing young options in Kurt Benkert and Danny Etling. Benkert played well in last year’s Hall of Fame game and unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in the process. He should continue to shine in the preseason again this year and make the roster. Etling provides a different skill set than the other three at the position as he is the most mobile of the four by far.
Running Backs – 76, T-27th (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
Freeman’s departure leaves 186 carries available. While he wasn’t the same after an abundance of injuries in the last few years, the loss still stings. Gurley was brought in and hasn’t been the same since the end of the 2018 season. He only totaled 857 rushing yards last year, albeit behind an abysmal offensive line, but his explosiveness wasn’t the same. Gurley’s rushing attempts per game dropped from 18 in 2018, to just under 15 last year, in an attempt to decrease his workload. Gurley is a major risk and the depth behind him isn’t that great either.
Brian Hill took over as the lead back during Freeman’s absence last year and did a solid job. Hill had 78 rushes for 323 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while adding ten catches for 69 yards and another score. Ito Smith hasn’t taken the step that many thought he would coming into his second year last year. Smith only played in seven games due to injuries but had almost five yards per carry on 22 attempts. Qadree Ollison also factors in. Behind Gurley’s massive workload, there is a ton of untapped potential in the trio of Hill, Smith, and Ollison.
Pass Catchers – 85, T-8th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
The duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley is one of the best in the league. The two combined for 162 catches, 2,260 yards, and 13 touchdowns last year, while also missing three games. Russell Gage will take over as the third receiver in the rotation and will look to improve upon his 49 catch, 446 yard-season last year. Laquon Treadwell was added during the offseason and will battle for a roster spot. Christian Blake returns this year as well as Olamide Zaccheaus, who only had three catches but those three catches totaled 115 yards.
97 targets are now available as Austin Hooper is now in Cleveland. The Falcons traded a second-round pick to acquire former first-round pick, Hayden Hurst from the Ravens. Hurst fell out of the starting role in Baltimore due to the breakout of Mark Andrews. Hurst only has 43 catches in his career but should take over as the lead tight end in Atlanta and Ryan loves throwing to his tight ends. XFL signee, Khari Lee is an athletic freak who should be the second option while Jaeden Graham falls to the third option at tight end.
Offensive Line – 77.5, T-16th (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
The Falcons spent their two first-round selections last year on the offensive line by selecting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, and also signed James Carpenter in free agency. Unfortunately, those three didn’t produce as much as many expected. Atlanta retains all five of their starters this year so that does help, but Lindstrom and McGary need to take a major step forward. Alex Mack and Jake Matthews are top-notch players at their positions but that doesn’t mean much when the other three starters were injured.
Atlanta has solid depth on the interior as Jamon Brown and Justin McCray have starting experience as backups. Matt Hennessy was selected and could be the eventual successor to Mack at center. Atlanta has five solid starters, but all need to be on the field for the offensive line to be great as a whole.
Run Defense – 79, 21st (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
Atlanta finished 15th in run defense last year and finally has a partner opposite of Grady Jarrett. Marlon Davidson was selected with the second-round selection and will likely be a depth piece early in the season until he gets acquainted with the system. Tyeler Davison is one of the better run defenders in the league and stays in Atlanta again this year. Deadrin Senat also provides some depth on the interior. Allen Bailey is a solid veteran while John Cominsky will vie for snaps.
Deion Jones is one of the better coverage linebackers in the league and is great against the run as well. He is the best player on the defense and possibly the third-best player on the team.
Pass Rush – 75.5, 26th (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
Atlanta desperately needs help rushing the passer. The Falcons only totaled 28 sacks last year and their sack leader last year, Vic Beasley, signed with Tennessee during the offseason. Half of Atlanta’s sacks from last year are gone with Beasley, De’Vondre Campbell, and Adrian Clayborn out the door. The main three pass rushers on the edge will be a trio of former first-round draft picks. Dante Fowler was added coming off an 11.5 sack season last year. Takk McKinley had the worst season of his short career last year, only totaling 3.5 sacks. Charles Harris now comes over from Miami and only has 3.5 sacks in his career after being a first-round pick. Jarrett is an animal on the interior and had 7.5 sacks last year. The trio of Fowler, Harris, and McKinley needs to step up their game if Atlanta’s defense is to become anything special.
Linebackers – 82, T-11th (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
Deion Jones is the leader of the defense. He is one, if not the best cover linebacker in the league, and is now joined by safety/linebacker hybrid, Deone Buchanon. The Falcons spent their first day three pick on Mykal Walker. Walker played edge rusher, outside and inside linebacker at Fresno State. He is seemingly a replacement for Campbell, who left to go to Arizona in free agency. Ahmad Thomas returns this year and will compete for a roster spot.
Secondary – 70, 31st (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
Atlanta desperately needs help outside of Keanu Neal in the secondary. Desmond Trufant left in free agency to go to Detroit. Former second-round pick, Isaiah Oliver, former fourth-round pick, Kendall Sheffield, and this year’s first-round pick, A.J. Terrell are likely to be the three starters at cornerback. All three don’t have much experience and could get burned early in the season. Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Jordan Miller are the top depth behind those three at cornerback.
Neal has missed 28 of a possible 32 games the last two years. That has led to Ricardo Allen and Damontae Kazee being the two starters for the last two years at the two safety spots. Neal needs to be healthy, but that could be a longshot as he’s only played in four games for the last two years.
Coach and Culture – 81.5, T-14th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
Nine of the eleven starters are returning from last year with only Freeman and Hooper not returning. Ryan needs a rushing attack for him to be the MVP-like player he can be. The offensive line needs to take a step forward with the same starting five as last year. Atlanta comes in eighth for offensive coach and culture.
The Falcons are tied for 22nd in defensive coach and culture. There are a lot of moving pieces on the defense and the pass rush and secondary has a ton of unproven players vying for starting roles. Quinn and defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris need to continue on their success from the end of last year for the Falcons to compete for the NFC South title.
The NFC South just got a whole lot tougher. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are now in Tampa Bay and Drew Brees is returning to the Saints. Those two alone will make the unproven secondary look miserable. The offense has a ton of star names, but the Falcons may be too little, too late to make a championship run.
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