The Falcons have some serious problems on the offensive side of the ball, with more questions than answers. Not only is Atlanta taking a step back under center by going from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota, but the receiving corps will be even worse than last year’s mediocre group. People will point to Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts as options, which is true. But Ryan and the offense struggled with a similar group of pass catchers to this season’s, except Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage won’t be on the field. Even though Ridley only played a handful of games and Gage missed some time, Atlanta still had them and Hayden Hurst for portions of last season. Long story short, the Falcons’ offense is going to struggle more than it already did a year ago.
As I mentioned earlier, Mariota will lead the offense; all things considered, he’s not as bad as some starters around the league. Marcus doesn’t offer the upside that other younger signal callers do or the experience a veteran like Ryan has, but he’s still a solid option. He’s only meant to bridge the gap between Ryan and whoever the Falcons draft in the next couple of years, but his familiarity with Arthur Smith could provide a spark for the offense.
Franks is the only backup on the roster currently, and I couldn’t decide where even to put him — tight end or quarterback. Jokes aside, Atlanta kept him on the roster for every game and used him sparingly in gadget packages at both positions. I doubt he becomes more than that, so I’d expect one more player to be added to the QB room by the time the season rolls around.
At this point in the offseason, I’d guess Mike Davis is going to be on the final 53-man roster. If Terry Fontenot was going to cut the Georgia native, I think it would’ve happened already.
Even with Davis returning and starting a year ago, Cordarrelle Patterson will be the leader of this group. Davis is still a reliable back who does all the little things, like pass protection, correctly. Patterson is the star, however: he broke out last season and recorded career-highs in every major statistical category. Cordarrelle is back on a very team-friendly, two-year deal, and is poised to be the team’s leading rusher and one of the top receiving options again.
Williams will be a depth piece and get limited playing time unless an injury occurs. He’s a pass-catching weapon that offers a different look on third downs than Davis does. Ollison will help out on special teams but will remain the fourth option. Huntley and Raine are long shots to make the final roster, but they’ll be mainstays on the practice squad.
This might be the worst receiver room I’ve ever seen. Even if the Falcons add a top prospect later this month, it’s still a well-below-average group even with Pitts and Patterson.
Tate has struggled to stay healthy but still isn’t anything more than a WR3. Zaccheaus and Byrd are speedy options, but they’re also nothing more than #3 receivers on the depth chart. Darby still has potential; however, at this point, he’s shown himself to be nothing more than a special teams contributor, and the same can be said for Hodge. Trammell and Hansen are nothing more than camp bodies who will be fighting for spots on the practice squad.
TE Kyle Pitts
Pitts obviously headlines this group. Entering his second year, the former Florida Gator has already been elected to a Pro Bowl and broken nearly every receiving record he could during his rookie season. Everyone should expect an extraordinary year from Pitts.
However, beyond the highest tight end drafted in league history, things are bleak. Hesse is more of a third tight end, but he’s a decent receiving option and better blocker. He can play some H-back, but, ideally you’d like him to be TE3. Lenius joins the NFL after playing north of the border a year ago. Primarily a receiver in the CFL, Lenius is intriguing.
Becker is a better blocker than receiver, but I still think he can be a TE4 on this team, especially if there are no more additions to the tight end room. Before he got hurt a year ago, there seemed to be a role for him on this team. Helm will likely be a camp body, nothing more.
The Falcons just handed Jake Matthews a well-deserved extension, which will lock him in as the team’s blindside protector for at least the next four seasons. McGary’s future is a lot less clear. His fifth-year option is going to be brought up over the course of the next month, but I think it’s a forgone conclusion that Atlanta lets him walk next offseason.
Ifedi was seemingly brought in to compete with McGary, but I think he could give it a go at left guard too. Even though he’s never played on the left side, a veteran like Ifedi could be able to adapt. More than likely, he’ll be the first man off the bench for the right side of the line of scrimmage.
The rest of the crowd will battle it out for the last couple of spots on the roster. Wilkinson seems to have the upper hand, given his ties to Ryan Pace, who just joined the front office after spending the last few years in Chicago as the Bears GM. Beavers seemed to impress the staff as he hung on to a practice squad position for the entire year. I’d imagine it’s between those two, and I’d expect another addition to potentially take over for McGary in 2023.
The guard position couldn’t be more imbalanced. On the right side, the Falcons have the ultra-reliable rising star Chris Lindstrom, who has become the team’s best lineman. On the other side, Atlanta is going to be forced to trot Jalen Mayfield out there again unless they bring in someone to compete.
The depth is abysmal. Gossett has ties to Dwayne Ledford, which bodes well for his chances of making the final 53-man roster. Neuzil didn’t show much despite being an interesting undrafted free agent. Wilkinson, Leonard, and Coward could challenge for these spots too, but given Matt Hennessy‘s versatility, I doubt it.
Hennessy may not get the starting job, but he needs competition. He was objectively bad last season despite Pro Football Focus’s “average” grading. It was his first full season at the helm, so he should have a bit of slack. However, if he can’t improve this season, the Falcons might have to replace him with Dalman or an outside player.
Dalman will be the team’s interior swing lineman, and I expect him to be a decent depth piece for as long as his career lasts. They rotated at the center position a year ago — quite an unorthodox arrangement — but I expect Hennessy to get every snap if he’s healthy.
Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire
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