The Falcons’ lowly expectations are warranted. The club just traded away stalwart quarterback Matt Ryan, who long covered up the roster’s deficiencies with his veteran savviness. The Falcons are hitting the reset button. They boast the single largest dead cap hit, courtesy of Ryan, and total over $63 million in dead money. That’s an insurmountable obstacle to overcome.
The roster is also littered with replacement-level players competing for starting spots. The offensive line, which was one of, if not the worst unit in football last season, wasn’t upgraded at all. Outside of Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson, the skill positions were also non-factors. Ryan had little to work with but still put up decent numbers, even if they were the worst of his career. The Falcons did upgrade in this area by bringing in Drake London, Bryan Edwards, and Tyler Allgeier while re-signing Patterson. However, aside from the veteran swiss army knife, that’s an incredibly unproven bunch.
Don’t even get me started on the defense, either. Dean Pees famously mentioned he only ran about 60% of the playbook a year ago, seemingly because individuals couldn’t mentally absorb all the information. Atlanta’s defense infamously totaled 18 sacks in 2021, 11 fewer than the second-to-last Eagles and less than TJ Watt and Robert Quinn had individually. Pees’ unit ranked in the bottom five of almost every single defensive metric but boldly predicted they’ll be mentioned in the same conversations as the great defenses he coordinated in Baltimore and New England.
It was just an all-around bad team in 2021, and the 2022 roster is filled with even younger and less experienced players. It’s not going to be better this season. However, Arthur Smith isn’t discouraged by all the outside noise. He addressed the topic last Friday at training camp practice, comparing the early days of the iPhone to what the Falcons are building.
“Just go do a Google search, go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out if you want to humor yourself,” he told reporters. “It’s hard to find good comedy these days. Go back and look at those predictions if you want real comedy.”
Comparing the Falcons’ lowly expectations to the rise of the iPhone is quite bold. The device has been a revelation to the world and might be one of the single most profitable products in the history of capitalism. Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world, with a market cap of more than $2.5 trillion. Those are some lofty expectations for the Falcons, comical even. Atlanta isn’t going to turn things around this season or even next, but the cultural shift is palpable. Still, without tangible results, it’s just more of the same Dan Quinn rah rah this fanbase has heard for years.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire