The Atlanta Falcons are halfway through the 2022 campaign as the team sits with a 4-5 record through Week 9. Arthur Smith’s club has exceeded expectations thus far in a season where many believed the Falcons would win two or three games. The offense remains one of the most effective running units in football, and the special teams have improved dramatically. The Falcons control their own destiny as they aim for the playoffs; here are the players that have contributed the most and least to this point.
Most Valuable Player: Grady Jarrett
Grady Jarrett is easily the most dominant player on the Falcons’ roster right now. He’s playing at an All-Pro level in his age-29 season, recording 4.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits already. He consistently shows up in the biggest moments of the game, and I don’t think anyone would argue he’s the heartbeat of this team. Jarrett is having a career year following a contract extension, and the Falcons are reaping the rewards of their investment.
Most Improved Player: Kaleb McGary
After not having his fifth-year option exercised, McGary has looked like a completely different player this season. In three seasons prior, the former first-rounder made little to no improvements in his development. But in his fourth year, McGary has changed the narrative. Arthur Smith, who doesn’t throw around compliments too often, had this to say about the fourth-year right tackle.
“I’m proud of Kaleb.”
“He has come a long way.”
“He’s playing some pretty good football right now.”
McGary was among the worst pass protectors in the league last year, but coming back to Flowery Branch with a different mentality and in the best shape of his life has completely turned things around for him.
Breakout Player of the Year: Ta’Quon Graham
Graham and Jarrett’s stellar campaigns go hand and hand. They’re in a mutually beneficial relationship. The former fifth-round pick has logged eight quarterback hits, which quadruples his rookie total. He’s incredibly disruptive defending the run, and though his pass rush could use refining, he’s still the best the Atlanta Falcons have next to Jarrett.
Rookie of the Year: Tyler Allgeier
Drake London is an argument to be the team’s best rookie. After all, he totaled 13 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown in the team’s first two games. But he’s cooled off considerably in a run-centric offense. Arnold Ebiketie has also impressed early, but Allgeier was a fifth-round pick and is far-exceeding expectations. The BYU product leads the Falcons in rushing (423 yards) and had the year’s longest run (44). He’s shown excellent vision, patience, balance, and even some surprising wiggle. Allgeier can positively impact games as a runner, pass catcher and blocker; that’s fantastic value for a late-round pick.
Coach of the Year: Dwayne Ledford
Obviously, the coach of the year would be Arthur Smith. He deserves national recognition for what he’s doing in Atlanta. Nobody is doing more with less than Smith, but this is about the entire team. And Dwayne Ledford’s work with the offensive line is nothing short of a miracle. After being one of the least productive units in run and pass sets, the Atlanta Falcons have become one of the best this year. Two players are in the league’s top ten in rushing yards before contact, and three are in the top 26. Ledford’s work with the offensive line should be greatly appreciated.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire