On paper, the Falcons have a playoff-caliber roster, especially considering the NFC South is the worst division in football. After unloading more cap space than ever before under Arthur Smith’s tenure, the expectation should be the playoffs.
The most drastic improvements came on the defensive side of the ball. A group that desperately needed talent got a ton of it this offseason in the form of Jessie Bates III, Kaden Elliss, Calais Campbell, and David Oneymata, among others. Ryan Nielsen, Atlanta’s new defensive coordinator, will have plenty of weapons in his arsenal to turn the group into a respectable unit.
Offensively, four of five starters return on the line, with the left guard spot up for grabs between Matthew Bergeron and Matt Hennessy. Moreover, Jonnu Smith and Bijan Robinson join an already loaded skill group that includes two other top ten draft picks — Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson.
It’s an underrated group that was already a productive rushing attack and should improve through the air. It’s all on Desmond Ridder‘s shoulders. The offense’s ceiling and the team’s playoff aspirations will depend on the former third-round pick’s ability to adapt to the NFL. He knows what he has in his supporting cast:
Falcons QB @desmondridder spoke about Atlanta's young core on NFL Live 📈
"[Bijan Robinson's] explosiveness. You obviously see it on his film from Texas … his ability to play anywhere and do anything is just really huge." pic.twitter.com/syqeVhinir
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 18, 2023
Bijan Robinson is the odds-on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award for a reason. He was arguably the most talented prospect in the draft and couldn’t have landed in a better situation.
Arthur Smith wants to run the ball, and the Falcons offensive line is one of the best run-blocking units in the league. Robinson is also much more than just a running back; he was a threat in the passing game at Texas. Expect him to be an offensive weapon, not just a traditional running back.
Kyle Pitts and Drake London are ascending talents and will give Ridder vast targets. Pitts has a record-breaking wingspan, and London was a two-sport athlete at USC because he can jump out of the gym. Both broke records as rookies.
Another important note from the video is Ridder saying he’s been connecting with the skill group off the field. If you ask any Super Bowl champion, the teams that were the closest always won the most games. It’s encouraging to see Desmond Ridder taking the relationship aspect of things seriously.
He will have to be borderline unplayable not to get the Falcons to the postseason. The skill group is elite and will establish itself among the best in the NFL by the end of the season.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire