There were several bright moments in the Falcons’ two-touchdown victory over the Panthers. Bijan Robinson scored the first touchdown of the season in emphatic fashion, taking a swing pass and breaking three tackles en route to the endzone. However, I don’t think anyone would argue that Jessie Bates III was the MVP of Week 1.
The first-year Falcon had the best debut of any player in recent memory, logging a pair of interceptions and passes defended to go along with a forced fumble and 10 total tackles. Jessie Bates was the gem of the free agent class, signing a $64 million deal over four years. He’s primed to be the captain of the defense along with Grady Jarrett, quarterbacking that side of the ball from the backend.
Bates has already made an All-Pro and is regarded among the best safeties in the league; however, Bleacher Report isn’t buying his bid to becoming a superstar.
While Bates’ performance jumped off the page, it’s going to be difficult for him to repeat that type of stat line on a regular basis. He’s never been considered much of a ballhawk, as his 14 picks in Cincinnati were a good amount but not an eye-popping number. Both his Falcons interceptions came off a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start playing without some of his top receivers in the lineup.
Since 2018, when Bates entered the league, the former Bengals and current Falcons safety has logged 16 interceptions, which ranks 11th over that span. Moreover, he ranks 8th among all safeties and is only two off from Minka FitzPatrick and Kevin Byard, who are widely regarded as the two best safeties in football.
Jessie Bates has been described as a rangy ballhawk. The interception total might not be that of Justin Simmons (23 since 2018), but it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. I’m not sure what Bleacher Report has been watching, but his Falcons debut told the exact opposite story of what they’re trying to paint. It gets worse.
The tackle numbers are also unsustainable. He’s currently on pace for 170 tackles, but Bates is coming off a year in which he recorded a career-low 71 tackles and hasn’t reached a triple-digit amount of them since 2020. He set his career high in that department with 111 as a rookie and has steadily declined since.
Bates total tackles:
- 2018: 111
- 2019: 100
- 2020: 109
- 2021: 88
- 2022: 71
Bates has posted more triple-digit tackle seasons than not. Minkah FitzPatrick, who most people would consider among the best safeties in the league, has only totaled 100+ tackles once in that same time frame. So again, I don’t where Bleacher Report is going with all of this, but it doesn’t stop there.
While Bates is unquestionably a great addition to the Atlanta defense and will be instrumental in the team’s future successes, he’s likely going to remain the consistently above-average defender he was during his time with the Bengals and not an All-Pro superstar. Don’t expect the 26-year-old to make the type of leap his Week 1 stats may indicate and he’ll regress to the mean in the coming weeks.
“Consistently above-average defender… not an All-Pro” isn’t exactly accurate, considering he’s already made an All-Pro team. The fact of the matter is Jessie Bates is among the best players in the league. Of course he’s not going to maintain three turnovers every single game, but to discredit one of the greatest debuts in free agent history is disingenuous.
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire