The Falcons addressed the most pressing roster needs through the draft and free agency. Atlanta went out and signed Cordarrelle Patterson, Casey Hayward, Rashaan Evans, Anthony Firkser, Marcus Mariota, and Lorenzo Carter, among others — all of whom will start and have significant roles in 2022. Terry Fontenot then drafted Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Tyler Allgeier, and Desmond Ridder.
Those signings and draft picks addressed the Falcons’ biggest needs heading into this season — cornerback opposite AJ Terrell, starter next to Deion Jones, TE2 behind Kyle Pitts, immediate and long-term solutions at quarterback, pass rushers, and pass catchers. They really did an excellent job bolstering the weakest points of the roster; however, there are still some major concerns along the offensive line.
It seems the Falcons are set to roll out the same starting five as they did in 2021, which was one of the worst in the league. In fact, Mariota could be dropping back behind three of the worst pass protectors in football, according to Ben Baldwin’s projected pass protection grades.
That is three starters in the bottom nine… you don’t need to be an expert to realize how bad this could be again in 2022. The Falcons can scheme around their lack of pass protection, though. Arthur Smith is deadset on getting back to running the ball more, which will inherently slow opposing pass rushers down. Marcus Mariota is more mobile than Matt Ryan, so that should also help the Falcons’ offensive line.
Still, even with the protections of play calls, tight ends and running backs helping in pass protection, and the quarterback’s ability to escape the pocket, the Falcons’ offensive line desperately needs an upgrade. Jalen Mayfield was arguably the worst lineman in football a year ago. Despite PFF’s praise, Matt Hennessy isn’t reliable in pass sets. And Kaleb McGary just hasn’t progressed in that phase of the game. Atlanta will have to make changes eventually; there’s no way they saw the line play in 2021 and think it’ll be anything but marginally better in 2022.