The Falcons are in sole possession of first place in the NFC South with their sights on ending a playoff drought dating back to 2017.
It’s no coincidence that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith constructed the best roster of their tenures in the same offseason where they had more cap space than at any other juncture since arriving in Atlanta.
This offseason’s acquisitions have catalyzed the Falcons’ turnaround. Regardless of the avenue in which they arrived, the new faces in Atlanta have completely changed the complexion of this club.
Jessie Bates III was the gem of the offseason and has proved his worth through seven weeks already. The All-Pro is second in the league in interceptions and is graded as the highest-graded safety in football by multiple outlets.
David Onyemata leads the Falcons with 2.5 sacks, but his impact goes far beyond the box score. He’s been one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the entire league against the run and when rushing the passer.
Kaden Elliss leads the team in tackles and is second in tackles for loss. He hasn’t had the breakout game just yet but is constantly showing up in multiple facets of the game — rushing the passer, defending the run, and in coverage.
Jeff Okudah was acquired via trade and may be the best addition of the offseason in terms of cost. He’s been playing like a third overall pick and looks like he could be the long-term answer opposite A.J. Terrell.
Calais Campbell’s decision to sign with the Falcons was a surprise, but his impact isn’t shocking. He is tied for second on the team in sacks, and more importantly, has been an invaluable veteran leader. Even Bud Dupree has been a productive addition for the Falcons. Though it’s mostly against the run, Dupree’s presence has been positive.
The defensive turnaround can be attributed to those additions and Ryan Nielsen. The Falcons rank ninth in points per game, fourth in pressure rate, fifth in red zone scoring percentage, and third in third down conversion rate. The Falcons defense might not have the gaudy sack or turnover numbers, but Nielsen’s unit has been stingy in the most important facets of the game and is a primary reason why Atlanta is winning games.
It’s not just the offensive additions, though. Jonnu Smith was acquired via trade and is second on the team in receptions, yards, and yards after the catch. Nearly every significant offseason acquisition has had a positive impact.
The Falcons new regime may struggle in the draft, but they’re killing it on the pro personnel side of things. They’ll have more cap space this offseason to make even more improvements to the roster too.
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