Falcons: Is it time to play some of the younger guys?

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The Falcons sit two games under .500 with seven games left in the 2021 season; more than likely, Atlanta will be favorites in only one more matchup. This Sunday, the Jaguars and Falcons game is a pick ’em on most gambling sites. The Lions are an abysmal team, and the game will be in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so Falcons fans can expect to be favorites. Outside of those two, though, the Falcons will be betting underdogs for the rest of the season.

Sitting at 4-6 on the season, the Falcons must pull off several upsets to contend for a playoff spot. Currently, the Falcons sit behind the 6th seed Vikings (5-5), 7th seed Saints (5-5), 49ers (5-5), Eagles (5-6), Panthers (5-6), and WFT (4-6). The Falcons have a shot at making the playoffs, but it is becoming less and less possible.

Atlanta will have to win four of their last seven games to make the postseason; the most beneficial victories would come over New Orleans, Carolina, and San Francisco. As I said before, it is certainly possible, but not likely. Still, that hasn’t stopped Arthur Smith & Co. from scratching and clawing to win games; he won’t give up hope of the playoffs until they’re officially eliminated.

With the playoffs becoming more and more of a pipe dream, it could behoove the 2022 Falcons to get some of the younger guys playing time. Richie Grant, who has essentially been a special teamer, needs to get more snaps. The second-round pick played 24 defensive snaps against the Patriots and made several mistakes but did so going 100 MPH trying to make a play. I have no doubt Grant will eventually develop into something special, but the mental part of the game has to be there before he can reach those heights.

The Falcons have a bevy of rookie defenders that should gain valuable snaps as the season winds down. Darren Hall had impressive moments on special teams and even notched the first sack of his career on Mac Jones. Ade Ogundeji saw his snap count fall a bit with James Vaughters playing better, but he still saw more than Grant. Ta’Quon Graham saw the same amount (27) as Ogundeji.

Even though the Falcons have seen more from Vaughters, the development of Ogundeji should be prioritized. Grant’s snaps will likely dip again as Jaylinn Hawkins makes his way back to the team, but I would bet the entire rookie class sees an uptick in snap counts as the season draws to an end. If the Falcons are clearly out of the playoff race, they’ll need to begin the self-scouting process, which should start with the rookie class as the Falcons need at least two starters out of Grant, Ogundeji, Hall, and Graham.

 

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