2019 NFL Season Preview- Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons showed flashes, but couldn't make any serious strides during the 2018 season.
The inconsistent year saw Atlanta lose three straight, win three straight, lose five straight, and then win their final three games.
Quarterback Matt Ryan probably had his second best season to date by throwing for 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He was durable despite playing behind the revolving door of an o-line. Matt Schaub is a dependable veteran backup who the organization really trusts. Running back Devonta Freeman played in just two games before a groin injury required surgery. Tevin Coleman took over Freeman and finished with 800 rushing yards and 32 receptions. Tight end s Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert are valuable backups thanks to their skills as blockers. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu remains a valuable slot man and gadget quarterback. The offensive line looked solid before injuries took their toll. Left guard Brandon Fusco was a solid free agency pickup before getting hurt.
The defensive line had a lot of contributors, but no one really dominated. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had his best season with a career high six sacks. Defensive end Vic Beasley has regressed since the Falcon's 2016 Super Bowl season, but showed more life after the team picked up Bruce Irvin. Takkarist McKinley remains a mystery as he dealt with injuries and but showed some promise with five sacks as a reserve including three in one game. Middle linebacker Deion Jones missed 10 games with a foot injury and his presence was clearly missed. Vondre Campbell led the team in tackles and became the vocal leader when Jones was out. Duke Riley lost his starting job midseason and doesn't look like he'll be getting it back. Safety Keanu Neal tore his ACL in the opening game of the year and Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles in Week 3. Demontae Kazee was phenomenal as he displayed hard hitting tackles and finished with seven interceptions. Cornerback Desmond Trufant was solid, but is no longer a true lockdown corner. Robert Alford was one of the most targeted cornerbacks in the league.
44 year old kicker Matt Bryant remained one of the most consistent in the league. Punter Chris Bosher averaged 45.5 yards per punt but had two punts blocked. Justin Hardy averaged 7.4 yards per punt return but the return game was still just average.
The team had four Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Julio Jones, tight end Austin Hooper, tackle Jake Matthews, and center Alex Mack. Jones had a bounce back year as he led the league with 1,677 receiving yards while battling through nagging injuries. Hooper had a breakout season with 71 receptions for 660 yards and four touchdowns. Matthews remains the cornerstone of the offensive line after signing his new contract. Mack made his sixth Pro Bowl, but struggled against larger nose tackles.
The rookie class produced NFL ready talent and quality depth. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley caught 65 passes and set a franchise record with 10 touchdown receptions by a rookie. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver started slow due to ankle injury but finished the year strong to emerge as a starter. Defensive tackle Deadrin Senat was only used as a reserve behind Grady Jarrett. Running back Ito Smith was looking like the dual threat coveted before injuring his knee. Wide receiver Russell Gage showed great hand and toughness in limited snaps. Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun finished third on the team in tackles and got better as the year went on.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
After the unimpressive 7-9, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong were all fired. Head Coach Dan Quinn stated that he would be calling the defense moving forward.
Atlanta then hired former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter to be the new offensive coordinator. Koetter also previously served as the Falcons offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014. The team also hired Ben Kotwica to be the new special teams coordinator as he served the same position with the Washington Redskins the last five seasons.
Notable Additions- RB Kenjon Barner, TE Luke Stocker, G James Carpenter, DT Michael Bennett, S JJ Wilcox
Notable Departures- RB Tevin Coleman, G Brandon Fusco, G Andy Levitre, G Zane Beadles, DE Brooks Reed, DE Bruce Irvin, DT Terrell McClain, CB Robert Alford, CB Brian Poole, K Matt Bryant
Falcons 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
The Falcons held the 14th overall pick in the draft with upgrades needing to be made if they ever want to get back to a Super Bowl. The need to add help at running back, offensive lineman, and defensive end is at an all time high.
With Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco and Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith coming off injuries, adding a bigger and more durable back would make sense.
The offensive line, especially on the right side, is in need of upgrades as Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times on the year.
Maybe Vic Beasley can return to his Pro Bowl form with Dan Quinn serving as defensive coordinator, but still the defense needs a player who can get after the quarterback or draw double team blocks to give opportunities to others.
When it came to time to pick, Atlanta ended up drafting Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick. Lindstrom has the tenacity and toughness teams look for in guards, but tends to whiff on occasion on running plays. The Falcons also traded back into the first round with the Los Angeles Rams to draft Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary with the 31st overall pick. McGary was viewed as the top run blocking tackle in the draft, but has to improve his hand placement and footwork.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State- Best closing and recovery speed of any cornerback prospect, work in progress
John Cominsky, DE, Charleston WV- Middle linebacker speed, average pass rushing ability
Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh- Tall and athletic runner, stiff knees and hips
Jordan Miller, CB, Washington- Tall with decent burst, poor tackler in space
Marcus Green, WR, Louisiana Monroe- Speedy slot receiver, next to no route tree
Kendall Sheffield Highlights
What To Expect
With a healthy roster and added depth, the Falcons look like they're ready to compete.
Matt Ryan should benefit having Dirk Koetter back as his offensive coordinator as Steve Sarkisian always seemed to hold the offense back. Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith are similar backs who have added value as receivers. Austin Hooper should continue to grow as the secondary target and could be used more in the red zone. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu should remain one of the to receiving trios in the league with Jones being one of the premier receiver in the league. The offensive line will have three new starters with Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary likely taking over on the right side and James Carpenter being placed at left guard, but Carpenter comes in with a lengthy injury history.
The defensive line was able to retain Grady Jarrett but the concern is still whether or not Vic Beasley can be the consistent edge rusher he was three years ago when he had 15.5 sacks. The linebacker corps should be strong if Deion Jones can remain healthy. Desmond Truant and Isaiah Oliver will likely be the starters on the outside while Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen should be back healthy. The defense also has to find ways to use Damontae Kazee either in nickel and dime packages or as a box safety.
Atlanta looks like they can easily handle Carolina and Tampa Bay, but I don't know if they've done enough to challenge New Orleans for the NFC South crown. However they do have an outside chance at a wildcard spot.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7