Two straight wins have given the Falcons a sense of hope heading into the bye week at 3-4. With the Redskins, Browns and Cowboys next up on their schedule, there is reason to believe Atlanta can be at least 5-5 and right in the thick of things three weeks from now. However, for the first 7 weeks the Falcons have looked nothing like a playoff team, regardless of the amount of talent on the roster. There are several guys, on both sides of the ball, that have to be much better coming out of the bye week for the Falcons to inch their way back into the playoff conversation.
Alford did not receive a lot of love early on his career due to his inconsistent play. The talent has always been there, but his tendencies to commit key penalties and allow big plays had him on the hot seat. That is, until about 2016, when Alford really started to make a name for himself on the way to a Super Bowl appearance without Desmond Trufant on the field. His key pick-six in the Super Bowl would have been the game’s most crucial play had the Falcons pulled it out.
Alford followed that up with his best year as a pro in 2017, recording a 76.7 grade from ProFootball Focus, more than 10 points higher than any other year in his career. However, that success has not been sustained here in 2018. Alford has been beaten consistently and gone back to his roots of grabbing and holding, resulting in several penalties. This is a player the Falcons really rely on, especially without Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal in the secondary. Alford has to be much better in the second half of the season.
Schweitzer has been thrust back into a starting role ever since Andy Levitre hit the IR. As a pass blocker, Schweitzer has been at about the same level as Levitre, but he has really struggled run blocking. The Falcons have rarely established a steady running attack in any game all season, with the one outlier being week 2 against the Panthers. Since then, these have been the numbers for the leading rusher in the Atlanta backfield:
Week 3: Tevin Coleman- 33 yards
Week 4: Tevin Coleman- 51 yards
Week 5: Devonta Freeman- 32 yards
Week 6: Tevin Coleman: 33 yards
Week 7: Tevin Coleman 50 yards
By no means is this all on Schweitzer. The entire offensive line has to be much better at opening holes for Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. However, Schweitzer has been one of the more noticeable players getting beat at the point of attack in the run game.
Vic Beasley Jr.
I won’t dive too much into Vic Beasley Jr.’s 2018 performance because I have been one of his biggest critics the entire season. There really isn’t any other way to put it than Beasley has just been flat out bad in every game this season. He has easily been the least productive player, not just starter, on the entire defense. Not to mention, this guy was the 8th overall pick in 2015 and led the NFL in sacks in 2016. Maybe there is something going on we do not know about, but Beasley needs to be A TON better in the final nine games of the season.
I don’t want to put all of the blame of the Falcons poor rushing attack on the offensive line. Atlanta has clearly missed the physical running style of Devonta Freeman this season. With him likely out for the remainder of the year, Tevin Coleman has to become “The Guy” in the backfield.
Coming into the season, most would have expected Coleman to be able to handle such a role. In fact, there were many who believed the Falcons made a mistake signing Freeman to a long-term deal because Coleman was the better back. It would be hard to make that case after 7 games this season. There is no doubting his big play ability, but he does not have the elusiveness and strength in tight quarters to make something out of nothing like Freeman does. Atlanta needs more from Coleman, or it could be Ito Smith receiving the bulk of the carries in the season’s second half.