Atlanta’s defense may not be fixable after all
I’ve kept a pretty firm stance that eventually Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel would be able to figure out some combination of players for an adequate defense. It turns out these backups are much worse than pessimistic fans could have even imagined.
The linebacker play without Deion Jones is simply atrocious. Running backs are able to run free in the passing game, and tackling seems more like an option than a requirement for Atlanta. Duke Riley is a certified bust, and there’s really no other way to get around it. He will be playing these final 11 games trying to prove he still belongs on the roster heading into next season.
Beyond the linebacker situation, Atlanta still hasn’t figured out how to replace both of their injured safeties, making the decision to not bring in outside help look stubborn and foolish. Big plays, that were basically unheard of under Dan Quinn, have been happening at an alarming rate.
And to be honest, the problems extend even further than just the replacements. Outside of Grady Jarrett and Takkarist McKinley, there are few plays being made across the defensive line. The pass rush is anemic and quarterbacks are having all day in the pocket to throw. On top of that, Atlanta’s talented corner group that looks to be one of the best on paper, is playing average at best. This whole thing is a mess and it doesn’t look to be getting better any time soon.
Atlanta’s offensive line is nothing special
This is another unit that looked to have has much talent as anyone coming into the season. The loss of Andy Levitre for the year was going to have a negative effect, but fill in, Wes Schweitzer, started every game for Atlanta last year. There was still plenty of hope this unit could be elite.
However, the problems have extended much further than Schweitzer. The Falcons have not been able to establish a consistent running game all season. Against the Steelers on Sunday, Atlanta only ran the ball 19 times for 62 yards. In fact, the Falcons have only manage to eclipse the century mark on the ground one time all season. It is not a coincidence that’s their one win, either.
Not only that, there have been a few games where they have been incapable of protecting Matt Ryan as well. This was one of those, as the Steelers racked up six total sacks on Ryan. An absolutely abysmal performance that really hasn’t been uncommon this year. Philadelphia also came up with four sacks and double digit pressures in week 1 against Atlanta.
It’s officially “Play for your job” time
Even at 1-4, this season isn’t over. The Falcons still have a loaded offense that is going to cause problems no matter who they are up against. There are several winnable games upcoming, but most of these guys are auditioning for a spot on the team in 2018. This is an Atlanta squad that is supposed to be in the middle of their Super Bowl window. Injuries have obviously derailed those plans, but that doesn’t mean these guys will be let off the hook.
You can bet there will be some major changes upcoming this offseason to help get this team back to the top of the league. Many of these replacements have proven unreliable so far, and if they don’t do something over the next 12 weeks to change that, they will be looking for another job in five months.