Every four years, the Falcons seem to put together a historic group of offensive skill position players, resulting in an NFC Championship appearance in 2012 and Super Bowl appearance in 2016. 2020 could continue that trend. Health providing — the potential for ridiculous offensive numbers is unquestionable — and it is not entirely unreasonable to argue that this year’s offense will be the best of the bunch, so let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Matt Ryan. Roddy White. Julio Jones. Tony Gonzalez. Michael Turner. Should I keep going? This team was electric, finishing as the first seed in the NFC at 13-3. That’s what happens when you have multiple 1,000-yard receivers and one of the three best tight ends of all time in the same receiving corps. Matt Ryan was a young star who threw for 4,719 yards and 32 TDs — his best statistical season at that point in his career — and the Falcons actually had a running game. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for over 1,600 scrimmage yards.
This team should have made it to the Super Bowl, but losing the NFC Championship to the 49ers doesn’t discredit how explosive this offense was. I was eleven during this season, and I look back on this team and that era as being the glory days of Falcons football, but the best of the Matt Ryan era was yet to come.
2016 would have been much more glorious had the Falcons not blown the 28-3 lead to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I apologize for even mentioning it. Despite this, it was a historic year for the Falcons offense. They scored an eye-popping 33.8 points per contest, putting them among the most high-powered machines in league history, led again by Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP. His career-year featured 4,944 passing yards and a 38:7 TD-INT ratio. Julio Jones put up over 1,400 yards in just 14 games and was 1st-team All-Pro, establishing himself as the top receiver in the game, but he wasn’t alone. Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel proved to be excellent compliments in the passing game, and the backfield duo of Freeman and Coleman was elite. However, none of it would have been possible without the offensive mastermind that is Kyle Shanahan.
The 2020 offense has the potential to bring home what’s been ached over for so long. Matt Ryan is still an elite quarterback. You can comment if you disagree, and I’ll be happy to explain why you are incorrect. Julio Jones is still at the top of his game, and Calvin Ridley is one of the smoothest route-runners in football, poised for a breakout year after missing a few games last season, making up one of the best receiving duos in the league. Don’t sleep on Russell Gage either, who broke out after Mohamed Sanu was traded, and Hayden Hurst is an ultra-athletic tight end who could thrive in more of a passing offense.
But what makes this team’s potential the highest its ever been? Georgia’s own, Todd Gurley, will be lining up in the backfield. Word on the street: he is healthy and ready to play. Ryan has already had the chance to workout with him and told ESPN, “I was really impressed with his ability to retain information. You don’t have to tell him twice. He’s on it.” If Gurley can play at or near his 2017 Offensive Player of the Year form, Atlanta will boast a lethal trio in Ryan, Jones, and Gurley. Dirk Koetter has all of the weapons at his disposal; now, it is just a matter of putting it all together.
If football is indeed played, the Dirtybirds are going to shock a lot of people. The offense has perhaps the most firepower it ever has, and the defense should be much improved (it can’t get much worse). With all the hype surrounding the Saints and Buccaneers, it may be the Falcons that come out of the division and make a deep playoff run.