The Dirtybirds season is coming to an end, and it was a painful one for the Falcons faithful. But a 5-2 stretch since the bye week did provide us with some promise heading into 2020. There are a lot of things to like, but for this team to return to the playoffs, many adjustments are going to have to be made.
A Pass Rush
I’ve been clamoring for a pass rush for well over a decade now, and the Falcons ignore me every year. I was shocked that they barely added any help on the edge last offseason, and that is a primary reason why they began the year 1-7. Following this offseason, John Cominsky and Takk McKinley are the only edge rushers with a guaranteed contract. Those two have combined for a total of four sacks this season.
And no, that does not mean I want Atlanta to re-sign Vic Beasley. I’m happy for the way he’s ended 2019, but given the Falcons cap situation, coupled with his inconsistent play, bringing him back would be way too risky. Enjoy your new home Forty-Four; the Falcons need to spend multiple draft picks and whatever money they can scrounge up on guys who can get after the passer. Grady Jarrett, while spectacular, cannot do it all on his own.
Some Protection for Matty Ice
Poor Matt Ryan has spent his entire career with a franchise that been subpar in the trenches. Not only have the Falcons never had a quality pass rush since the arrival of Ryan, but they rarely have put together an offensive line that can keep him reasonably protected.
2019 was no different. The signings of James Carpenter, Ty Sambrailo, and Jamon Brown were worthless, and they are all candidates to be cut this offseason. Who could have possibly seen that coming? Oh wait, absolutely everyone with a brain. However, part of the reason for poor offensive line play was injuries to their two rookie first-round selections.
Kaleb McGary did not miss any games, but he did have to miss most of the offseason and preseason because of a heart condition. It took him a little while to get acclimated, but by now, he is a suitable right tackle with a lot of promise going forward.
Chris Lindstrom was forced to leave the game against the Vikings in Week 1 with a foot injury. It was later announced as a fracture, and he landed on injured reserve. Finally, Lindstrom returned three weeks ago against the Panthers. It’s no coincidence the Falcons have been miles better in pass-protection and at running the football since then. They are also 3-0 in games that he has started and completed. If the Falcons can find another offensive guard this offseason, their line should be much-improved in 2020.
A New Offensive Coordinator
For now, I will refrain from putting fire Dan Quinn on this list. Personally, the Falcons head man has had his fair share of chances. He knew it was a make or break year coming into the season, and he failed. Blank should realize that and move on. With that being said, I understand the arguments against starting from scratch once again, and it is clear that Quinn still has a voice in the locker room. So if the Falcons were to hang onto him for one more year, my pitchfork would stay in my closet. The same cannot be said for the offensive coordinator.
When I say Steve Sarkisian, you say scapegoat. I was never a Sark believer and was happy the team gave him the boot, but Dirk Koetter wasn’t the ideal replacement. He’s been allergic to running the football. And play-action, which is where Matt Ryan is often at his best, has been non-existent. His offense is worse in nearly every category this year than the Falcons offense a year ago. You may be a Dan Quinn supporter, but we can all agree this holiday season, Dirk Koetter needs to find a home far away from Atlanta.
A New Austin Hooper Contract
I was torn on this at the beginning of the season when Austin Hooper initially began to break out. Dirk Koetter has been known to inflate the stats of his tight ends, and I was never overly impressed with Hooper from 2016-2018. Plus, the Falcons don’t have a lot of money to be throwing around this offseason.
But after the Mohamed Sanu trade and Hooper’s breakout campaign, I’m all in on keeping him. His total contract may cost in excess of $50 million, but with some maneuvering, it is easily doable for the Falcons. And you don’t let these types of talents at a position like tight end walk. I love the future of this offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper leading it.