At this point, the Atlanta Falcons 1-7 start feels like a distant memory. They are 5-2 since the bye week, featuring an offense and defense in the top ten, with wins over the two best teams in the NFC on the road – the Saints and 49ers. Their draft pick may be taking a tumble, but it’s way more promising to watch this team achieve their potential. At least we know by now, our analysis of the Falcons wasn’t completely off at the beginning of the season; they were simply underachieving as we all thought. Unfortunately, dreams of the playoffs were washed a month ago, but there are plenty of things we should be happy about as we look towards next season.
That’s All-Pro Vic Beasley to you
Vic Beasley has been a man on a mission since the bye week. Not only has he been the team’s best pass rusher, recording 6.5 sacks over the last seven weeks, but he’s also flying around the field and making plays against the run as well.
I’ve been as tough as anyone on Beasley since his breakout 2016 All-Pro campaign. Frankly, he was awful for two and a half years, and nobody can convince me otherwise. However, I’m not sure who flipped his switch, but he looks like an All-Pro caliber player once again. Maybe, it’s coaching. At this point, I don’t think anyone can really explain why he is so hot and cold. But what I do know is he’s made himself a boatload of money these last seven weeks, and I don’t think the Falcons are the team that should take that risk this offseason.
Welcome back Chris Lindstrom
One thing that has been undeniable over the last three weeks has been the rejuvenation of the offensive line. And it’s no coincidence this took place once Chris Lindstrom returned to the lineup. The Falcons are running the ball miles better than they have all season and giving Matt Ryan all the time in the world to throw. They racked up 135 yards yesterday on the Jags, and Ryan was only sacked one time for one yard on the afternoon. Atlanta’s offensive line has turned from a glaring weakness into an overwhelming strength overnight, and Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary look to be the building blocks of something special in the future.
The adjustments have worked
Vic Beasley isn’t the only one on the defense flying around the ball and showing new life. If there’s a best-case to be made for Dan Quinn to keep his job, it is how effective this unit looks since Quinn took it upon himself to make changes to the coaching staff. One of those adjustments was relieving himself of defensive play-calling duties, which now belong to Jeff Ulbrich and Raheem Morris. Coming into the year, we all knew this defense had elite potential, and now, they are playing like one of the best in the league. Do the Falcons want to risk throwing all of that away and starting from scratch again? After all, we’ve seen first-hand what a difference the right coaching can make for a unit.
The Devonta Freeman and Brian Hill show
I still think the Falcons should have dumped the contract of Devonta Freeman to the Lions – if the reports were correct. There’s no reason to pay that much money to a running back that isn’t a bonafide gamechanger like Ezekiel Elliot or Christian McCaffery, and Freeman’s injury history is undeniable. With that said, Freeman has looked much more like his Pro-Bowl self over the past few weeks, which speaks to the offensive line. No running back was going to succeed with how the Falcons line was playing earlier in the season. Freeman has moves and remains a helluva a ball carrier.
I’ve also loved what I’ve seen from Brian Hill as the backup. Does he not look so much faster and more agile now that he’s wearing #23 this season? Maybe that’s just me. He actually led the Falcons in rushing yesterday with 66 yards on seven carries. Rookie 5th round pick, Qadree Ollison, has also served as a quality bowling ball in short-yardage opportunities. Atlanta’s running back situation is by no means dire heading into 2020.
Isaiah “The Blanket” Oliver
Isaiah Oliver was a player most draft analysts were drooling over a couple of years back. They praised the Falcons for landing him in the second round, but it has taken a little longer than we hoped for him to come into his own. But ever since Raheem Morris took over coaching the defensive backs, Oliver has turned into a lockdown #1 corner, which is what the Falcons needed with Desmond Trufant hitting injured reserve. We also learned this past week that Morris has an endearing nickname for the second year corner – The Blanket. I’m thrilled to see what The Blanket has in store for us in his third season.