Falcons rookies get meaningful snaps in win over Jaguars

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The Falcons snapped a two-game losing skid by beating the reeling Jaguars to the tune of 21-14. Atlanta had their best day running the ball since the opener against the Eagles, and it netted a few career-highs for Cordarrelle Patterson — 16 rushes for 108 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The defense was also uncharacteristically disruptive, forcing two turnovers. All around, the team played better, but it was also a product of Jacksonville being a bottom-three team in the league.

The rookies were a huge part of the win. Offensively, nothing has changed. Jalen Mayfield played every offensive snap, but his performance was better than usual. The college tackle turned guard has struggled mightily this season, notching the fourth-most pressures (42) allowed among all offensive linemen. He has improved incrementally, but the coaching staff can’t be encouraged with his overall performance.

Kyle Pitts played the second most out of the 2021 draft, finishing with 47 snaps, but he was mostly held in check. The rookie phenom caught just two passes on six targets for 26 yards and was held under 30 yards for the second consecutive game. After dropping 163 yards on the Dolphins in Week 7, Pitts has only totaled 190 yards over the past fives weeks. He will continue to receive bracket coverage and other kinds of combo coverages, so Arthur Smith will need to do a better of scheming him open.

Another member of the first-year regime’s inaugural draft got a surprisingly high number of meaningful snaps. Drew Dalman came in for Matt Hennessy after two offensive drives. Most people assumed the second-year center out of Temple was getting benched; however, Smith later clarified the rotation at center was planned and will continue going forward. Both players did well, but this is about the rookies. Dalman provided a spark as a run blocker, which had to be the motivation behind the decision. He only logged 20 snaps, but he did enough to keep his name in the hat for center.

Defensively, Ade Ogundeji led his class with 38 snaps and played acceptably. He’s dependable at defending the run; however, his pass rush presence is minimal. Hopefully, an entire offseason of work will improve that area. Richie Grant played 32 snaps and had big moments but also had a couple of mental lapses as he did last week. In the absence of Jaylinn Hawkins, Grant hasn’t been terrible. The former second-round pick can still develop into a playmaker because you see flashes of it in such limited action. Darren Hall finished with 26 snaps and had a couple of big moments himself. Hall’s coverage ability and willingness to physically support the run is a valuable combination; he just needs to be more consistent in coverage. Ta’Quon Graham notched only 21 snaps, but he’s showing the ability to provide a pass rush from the interior.

As we advance, this class will be depended on immensely. Every single rookie received double-digit snaps against the Jaguars, and they were mostly good. Avery Williams didn’t have any on defense, but his impact on special teams is undeniable. Fontenot and Smith need these rookies to build their house brick by brick, day by day. Improving every chance they can should ultimately result in good things.

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