The Atlanta Falcons reported to training camp on Tuesday, and the media got their first taste of the 2022 squad. Cordarrelle Patterson mentioned he wanted to break the NFL’s kick return touchdown record, and Olamide Zaccheaus doubled-down on the team’s confidence to reach the playoffs.
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) July 26, 2022
“I feel like we’re a playoff team,” Zaccheaus said last month via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We just (have) to put everything together. Really start fast at the beginning of the season and not get into a hole. I just feel like as a team, we can shock a lot of people.”
It isn’t the first time those sentiments have been shared either. Veteran free agent addition Casey Hayward already questioned why the Falcons couldn’t surprise people and compete following the Matt Ryan trade.
Atlanta went 7-10 last season and was in playoff contention until Week 16, but only a couple of their wins were impressive — five of their seven victories came against organizations that selected in the top six of the draft. They were plenty bad in most facets of the game. The Falcons boasted a -146 point differential (28th), averaged 303.8 total yards per game (29th), allowed 27.0 points per game (29th) and totaled a league-low 18 sacks.
Regardless of the metric or outlet, every corner of the NFL world expects the Falcons to be an extra bye week for opposing teams.
USA Today predicts a league-low two wins and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Vegas’ early odds indicate they will only be favored in one matchup all year. CBS Sports ranked Atlanta’s roster the very worst in the league. And NFL.com believes they’re the least likely of nine teams with a playoff drought of at least three seasons to make it to the postseason in 2022.
There aren’t many believers in the Dirty Birds this year, but that clearly hasn’t stopped the people inside the organization from believing in themselves. It’s a great sign of things to come. Hayward and Zaccheaus are the exact players that fans want on their team. They block out the outside noise and put their head down, working every day. The culture Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are trying to instill in this team is exactly what the two players are emulating, but the rebuild is undeniable.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire