Falcons position group among the league’s biggest roster holes

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The Falcons are dramatically improved from a year ago. Armed with more cap space than they’ve had in quite a long time, the club was big players in free agency, bringing in a class that bolstered the most talent-deficient units.

Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, and Kaden Elliss headline the defensive additions, but there’s reason to believe Jeff Okudah and Bud Dupree could experience bounce back campaigns. That also doesn’t include the internal development of players like Arnold Ebiketie, Richie Grant, and Troy Andersen.

The offense returns most of its starters from a year ago while adding Matthew Bergeron and Bijan Robinson from the draft and Jonnu Smith via trade. It’s a potent skill group that already featured versatile offensive weapons in Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson.

It’s the most complete team of Arthur Smith’s tenure as Falcons head coach, but it’s not void of holes. Like most rosters, there are areas that could be upgraded, and Atlanta’s biggest hole is rather apparent, as Kevin Patra of NFL.com points out — the receiver room.

The Falcons want to pound the ball on the ground, which makes perfect sense, given their coach and roster makeup. That said, wide receiver Drake London displayed flashes of tremendous upside in Year 1, and ATL is counting on a Year 2 leap. Beyond London, the WR corps screams for aid. Even if we consider tight end Kyle Pitts — who had a down, injury-abbreviated 2022 campaign — a WR type, the Falcons remain shallow. Mack Hollins is currently No. 2, coming off his only season above the 300-yard mark. Scott MillerKhaDarel Hodge and Penny Hart are the depth options. If the wideout corps remains unchanged, Desmond Ridder will use his tight ends (Pitts and Jonnu Smith) and running backs (Bijan RobinsonTyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson) a lot in the passing game. He’ll have to.

The Falcons’ lack of receivers ranked 8th among the league’s biggest holes; below is the full list:

  1. Cardinals’ defensive front
  2. Rams’ entire defense
  3. Raiders’ cornerback
  4. Titans’ wide receiver
  5. Bears’ defensive end
  6. Ravens’ edge rusher
  7. Saints’ defensive line
  8. Falcons’ wide receiver
  9. Jaguars’ edge rusher
  10. Chiefs’ edge rusher

Some of these are borderline disrespectful. The Rams don’t have a lot of defensive talent, but it’s a bit disingenuous to write off the entire unit; they’re still professional athletes at the end of the day. You can find talent anywhere, and there have been few teams better than Los Angeles at doing just that.

I won’t argue with the Falcons’ place on this list because there might not be a worse wideout group in football, other than the Titans’ wide receivers. Still, there are a couple of counterpoints to be made.

First, the Falcons’ offense isn’t a traditional one. It will use Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson as receivers. Moreover, it prioritizes the run game, moving the ball on the ground as much as any offense in football. It’s okay if the weakest position group is the one with the smallest role.

However, I do want to point out the Saints’ defensive line making an appearance.

I am on the record stating Atlanta will win the division over New Orleans for one reason — trench play. For the better part of the last decade, the Saints have featured superior offensive and defensive lines than the Falcons, but not anymore.

The Saints have an aging and expensive team, forcing the front office to make difficult decisions, like letting David Onyemata go. Their defensive front has long been regarded as one of the deepest, most talented in the league. Well, it’s no longer in that conversation. Moreover, the offensive isn’t close to what it was with Drew Brees under center.

Despite Desmond Ridder being inferior to Derek Carr, the discrepancy in the trenches combined with Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael’s incompetence should lead to the Falcons returning to the postseason, hosting a playoff game as NFC South champions.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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