Much has been made about how bad the Falcons will be in 2022. Their win total sits at just five games, coming off a seven-win season in 2021; however, five of their seven wins came against organizations who selected in the top six of the draft. Despite not being eliminated from postseason contention until Week 17 of last season, nobody thought of Atlanta as a playoff-caliber team.
After trading away longtime quarterback Matt Ryan, analysts and fans around the league expect the Falcons to be feeble. And rightfully so, when you downgrade from the greatest signal caller in team history to a rookie and a backup, there will be a significant drop-off. But the front office did an excellent job of upgrading in other areas. So, is the 2022 roster better than last year’s?
At quarterback, it’s relatively apparent — no. Desmond Ridder could develop into a franchise quarterback, but at this point, it’s a considerable downgrade at the position. The Falcons’ skill positions have improved this offseason, though.
Last year, the Falcons boasted a running back stable comprised of Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis. Patterson returned as the team added veteran Damien Williams and drafted BYU product, Tyler Allgeier. I’d say that’s a push, but it certainly isn’t a downgrade. The receiving core last year of Kyle Pitts, Olamide Zaccheaus, Russell Gage, and Patterson was pitiful. This is where the Falcons undoubtedly upgraded. Pitts, Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Anthony Firkser, and Patterson is a much better unit.
Along the offensive line, the Falcons stood pat, which may be something they regret. Even if Jalen Mayfield and Matt Hennessy improve in their respective development, the unit will be bad. Technically, the group should be better based on the progression of the younger players, but it should be noted the personnel wasn’t upgraded — push.
The defensive front is an area that could go either way, depending on the impact of the rookies on the edge. Eddie Goldman is head and shoulders better than what the defense had last year next to Grady Jarrett on the inside, but the edge unit went through a complete transformation. Lorenzo Carter isn’t an obvious upgrade over Dante Fowler Jr., while Ade Ogundeji is the only returning player from the 2021 roster. It all depends on how NFL-ready Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone are because they’ll be counted on in a big way come the Fall.
At the second level, the Falcons probably downgraded but only marginally. Foye Oluokun was a heck of a player and leader, while Deion Jones mailed in another forgettable season. The committee of Rashaan Evans, Nick Kwiatowski, Mykal Walker, and Troy Andersen has the potential to be better, but at this point, it’s a push at linebacker.
In the secondary, the Falcons undoubtedly got better. They replaced Fabian Moreau with Casey Hayward, while Duron Harmon‘s snaps will go to Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins. If both youngsters take considerable steps in their development, the safety unit should be much more dynamic.
The Falcons’ 2022 season will be predicated by how the coaching staff develops the rookies and second-year players. If it goes poorly, the team will be picking in the top five of the 2023 NFL draft. The best-case scenario is the team finishes with a similar record as 2021.
Photographer: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire