Nobody outside of Atlanta believes in the Falcons. After all, why should they?
The club has been pretty pathetic since its last trip to the postseason in 2017. The final days of Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan were hopelessly pathetic and marred by bad contracts, while the early days of Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot were extraordinarily average, accumulating a 14-20 record over two seasons.
It’s not hard to see why fans of other teams don’t take the Falcons seriously. However, this team, specifically Cordarrelle Patterson, relishes the underdog role, the veteran told Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network.
“We love it when people discount us at the underdogs. So we’re going to continue to be the underdogs until we go out and prove it.”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 9, 2023
It’s always easier to climb the mountain than stay on top of it. Nobody expects much from the Falcons because they don’t pay attention to what’s going on in Atlanta.
Most fans and members of the national media think it’s the same roster from a year ago with a third-round pick at quarterback. Only one of those is true. Desmond Ridder is about the only aspect of the team that will hold it back from reaching the playoffs.
The offensive line was one of the better groups in 2022 and returns four of five starters. The importance of continuity along the front cannot be understated and is a common theme among the top groups in the league. The hope is for second-round pick Matthew Bergeron to win the starting left guard position, which should be easy considering the competition.
The skill group is what’s really exciting. Kyle Pitts is still one of the most physically talented players in football; Drake London established himself as one of the better-ascending pass catchers in the league. The Falcons also return a pair of complimentary running backs in Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier. Moreover, Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith join them.
What’s most notable is the improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons added playmakers at all three levels, completely overhauling the front.
Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, and Bud Dupree join Grady Jarrett, Ta’Quon Graham, Arnold Ebiketie, Lorenzo Carter, and DeAngelo Malone. On the second level, Kaden Elliss comes over from New Orleans, where he was effective as a pass rusher as well as an off-ball linebacker and will slot in next to Troy Andersen. Jessie Bates was the crown jewel of the free agent class and will provide immense value in his mentorship of Richie Grant. A.J. Terrell also welcomes new faces to the cornerback room — Clark Phillips, Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, etc.
The Falcons may be underdogs right now, but that will soon end. The only thing that could stop that from happening is Desmond Ridder. All he has to do is act as a point guard and get the Falcons playmakers the ball while limiting turnover worthy plays.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire