Are the Falcons being overlooked around the NFL? The Athletic thinks so

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Despite the overhaul of the entire defense and upgrades to an already potent offense, the Falcons are still somehow being considered among the worst teams in the league. On paper, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Arthur Smith’s offense was one of the most potent in football last year, even though the passing attack was held back by Marcus Mariota. Even still, it was an efficient passing game based off a dominant rushing attack. All that group did was return most of its starters while adding a pair of offensive weapons in Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith.

The defense, on the other hand, was atrocious. It lacked talent in a lot of areas, but that changed this offseason. A group in desperate need of impact players got it at all three levels. David Onyemata and Calais Campbell join Grady Jarrett along the defensive front. Kaden Elliss will be a versatile chess piece for Ryan Nielsen that can be lined up on and off the ball. The gem of the free agent class was Jessie Bates III, who will quarterback the defense from the backend, covering up the deficiencies underneath.

It’s a vastly improved roster, which is why Mike Jones of The Athletic included the Falcons in a group of teams that is being overlooked around the NFL.

They may not make a dramatic leap from a double-digit loss team (for three straight years) to Super Bowl contender. But the Falcons could wind up challenging for a wide-open NFC South. They have a talented defense that should be even stronger after offseason investments in the trenches. And Arthur Smith runs an unconventional offense that poses challenges to opposing defenses. The big question mark is quarterback Desmond Ridder. The Falcons believe in the 2022 third-round pick, who in four games completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. Unlike the other three quarterbacks in the division (all new), Ridder has comfort in the offense, and there’s a belief both inside and outside of the organization that if he can play at a high level, the Falcons could surprise in 2023.

There’s no doubt that the biggest question mark surrounding the Falcons is Desmond Ridder.

His sample size was encouraging but minuscule. Honestly, it left something to be desired; however, the kind of praise the third-rounder receives leads me to believe he possesses the right stuff. Being a quarterback in the NFL is as much between the ears as it is physically. Ridder will never have the strongest arm, but he’ll have to make a couple of big time throws a game to lead Atlanta to victory.

Thankfully, it seems he’s dedicated to the grind, something that can’t be taught. Tom Brady wasn’t the most physically gifted guy, but there was a fire inside him that drove him past where any quarterback had gone before. Intestinal fortitude is an underrated aspect of playing the position on this level.

If Ridder is even average, this is a team that won’t only challenge for a playoff spot but host a postseason contest for the first time since 2016 as NFC South champions.

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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