NFL Preview 2022: Atlanta Falcons

Almost two years have passed since the Atlanta Falcons put an end to the regime of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, respectively head coach and general manager of a technical cycle that began as one of the most prosperous in the history of the franchise and had always closed on tones. more dismal. At the time, I called the legacy of that nefarious management a radioactive cloud that would take several seasons to dissipate. Indeed, the recent history of the Falcons is the daughter of the debts incurred over the years to keep a roster competitive that on balance has never been. Slowly, however, the cloud begins to dissipate and the possibility of reclaiming the land and making it fertile enough to build the Falcons of the future can be glimpsed on the horizon. The Falcons 2022 are exactly in the middle of this detoxifying journey. They are still too fragile to fly as high as their slogan says, but they can at least start planning for take-off.

OFFENSE

Of all the victims of friendly fire unleashed by the unfortunate management of recent years, the most innocent was certainly Matt Ryan, who after years of seeing his talent and leadership squandered without restraint has decided, not without the decisive push of almost trade for Deshaun Watson, to play for the last few cartridges wearing the Indianapolis Colts jersey. Painful as it was, Ryan’s departure was also necessary to sever the umbilical cord into the recent past. Without Ryan and Julio Jones, who had already started last year, the Falcons can take advantage of this transitional year by seeking among the players on the roster the most deserving of collecting such a heavy legacy. One actually already exists, Kyle Pitts, the tight-end unicorn that will already be able to establish itself as one of the league’s most terrifying offensive weapons this year. How GM Terry Fontenot built the rest of his group of pass catchers arouses a mixture of curiosity and perplexity. You have to go down a lot in the depth chart before you see a receiver below 185 centimeters and ninety kilos. With the first round rookie Drake London, the former Raiders Bryan Edwards and the idol of the crowds Cordarrelle Patterson and the same Pitts the Falcons more than the Twin Towers are reminiscent of the entire Manhattan skyline. The group lacks a (nice) bit of speed, sure, but it’s hard to be picky given the overall level of the roster. Certainly Marcus Mariota will have no difficulty in seeing his receivers at the baseline. The former Oregon has been giving good preseason signals, looks perfectly cured of the ailments that made him fall out of favor in Tennessee and has everything to recover as a good quarterback.

All but a reliable offensive line, because the five in line remain a gigantic unknown both in pass protection and in the blocks for racing. Speaking of racing, BYU rookie Tyler Allgeier has a clear path to establish himself as the team’s leading back. Allgeier is certainly no lightning bolt but he has the discipline and maturity in reading to establish himself as a reliable runningback. The opportunities to show off, given the propensity for racing of Arthur Smith’s team, will certainly not be lacking. We close the offensive examination with Smith, head coach in the second year on whose work it is almost impossible not to have conflicting opinions. On the one hand, game management and some communication choices make you turn up your nose, on the other hand some flashes in the preseason suggest a tactical acumen and creativity that last year were seen only intermittently. In the two pre-season releases, the Falcons showed very creative formations and games, a consistent use of motion and shift and in general a nonsoché of innovation that had been lacking in those parts for a long time. The use of the pistol formation was especially encouraging, a formation that (as explained in the third volume of The Playbook), allows the same variety of games offered by the under-center formations but at the same time does not affect the effectiveness of the passing game from the shotgun. , all while also allowing quarterbacks to be included in the running game. We write “i” and not “the” quarterback because it is almost certain that at some point in the season we will see Desmond Ridder, a rookie from Cincinnati who will have his chances to show off. All things considered, talent is not lacking as well as question marks in a department that will certainly not be a steamroller, but which is a strong candidate for the title of “Hipster Attack of 2022”.

DEFENSE

Dean Pees is not one used to losing. The current defensive coordinator of the Falcons arrived in Atlanta on the twilight of a glorious career that saw him directing world-class defenses between New England, Baltimore and Tennessee. For someone with such a pedigree it must not have been easy to lead a shabby department like that of the Falcons 2021, disastrous in all game situations and protagonists of a disappointing season even for very low local standards. It is therefore not surprising that Pees declared himself “fed up” and promised that “the culture will change” in his defense.

Assuming that doing worse than last year will be tough, the Falcons have actually added some interesting pieces to their defensive roster. The greatest expectations are placed on Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State’s edge rusher chosen on the second round to revitalize the team’s dying pass rush. The linebacker department could be completely revolutionized. Certain is the departure of Foye Oluokun (one of the very few happy notes of recent years) towards Jacksonville. Not yet certain but almost obvious that of Deion Jones, a parody of the jewel admired in the mid-19s for a long time. Jones is out for “shoulder problems”, but everything suggests that he is now out of the team’s plans.

At the center of the defense space for Rashaan Evans (Praetorian of Pees since the Titans) and the young Mykal Walker, with an eye to the bet Troy Andersen, athletic prodigy still to be modeled. The secondary offers more guarantees than last year. To support AJ Terrell, now more than a certainty, the expert Casey Hayward has arrived. In the role of cornerback slot, eye both the return of Isiah Oliver after a bad injury and the possible surprise Dee Alford, a young man who impressed him during the training camp. The safety department is very young but has good room for growth, especially if the second round 2021 Richie Grant proves to be reliable after an uncertain rookie campaign. It is useless to hide, the defense of the Falcons seriously risks ending up at the bottom of the standings, but in a year of re-foundation such as the one awaiting the team, the important thing must be to lay the foundations to change the losing culture that has sunk this department in recent years. .

SPECIAL TEAM

Younghoe Koo has earned a contract renewal by dint of kicks and onside kicks that makes him one of the highest paid kickers in the league and, depressing as it is, one of the best players on the roster. Seasoned Bradley Pinion will be punting, a nerve uncovered in recent years, while young Avery Williams should handle most of the comeback, as Cordarrelle Patterson is too valuable up front to be squeezed into special teams.

COACHING STAFF

The new Falcons regime has the big excuse of a significantly below average roster, but in this second year the coaches will have to demonstrate improvements on both sides of the ball if they want to guarantee the possibility of leading the new course for much longer. Both Smith and Pees will have to avoid disasters and show the breakthroughs that are legitimately expected after two years of technical continuity on both sides of the ball.

Expected record: 6-11

The Falcons have tried for too long to recover the unattainable grandeur of 2016. The cleanup in progress was necessary and inevitable, and however painful in the short term it can open interesting prospects for the future. In the meantime, we can expect a fickle but fun team full of young people ready to explode.



NFL Preview 2022: Atlanta Falcons – Huddle Magazine