The Falcons are a much different team heading into the third season of the new regime’s tenure than ever before. Every facet of the team is bound to improve from a year ago.
On the offensive side of the ball, one of the best lines in football returns four of five starters from a year ago with a potential long-term solution at left guard in Matthew Bergeron, but all of the hype surrounds the skill group.
Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith join Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson to form one of the most versatile and explosive supporting casts in the league. It’s rightfully exciting for all of the players and coaches, but fans should be more intrigued with the growth coming on the defensive side of the ball.
Grady Jarrett, A.J. Terrell, and Richie Grant could very likely be the only returning starters from last year’s season opener, depending on Lorenzo Carter‘s role. All three levels have been addressed.
Kaden Elliss joins Troy Andersen on the second level, but expect the former Saint to be a Swiss Army Knife for Nielsen, working all over the defense. And the gem of the free agent class was Jessie Bates III, who will solidify the backend next to Richie Grant, while Mike Hughes, Jeff Okudah, and fifth-rounder Clark Phillips join A.J. Terrell in the cornerback room.
It might be the deepest defensive depth chart the Falcons have had since the turn of the century, competing with the 2017 group. It’s rightfully exciting Cordarrelle Patterson, who might be more intrigued with the defense than the offense.
Patterson, on seeing Nielsen’s defense, “The things they’re doing on defense right now, it’s amazing. Showing us all these different kinds of looks. … As an offense [player] I’m excited for the defense.”
It’s a different era for this franchise. The jury is still out on Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot, but it’s hard to dislike where the Falcons currently sit.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire