PFF pegs $180 million free agent as the Falcons’ X-Factor

NFL: OCT 23 49ers at Vikings

The Falcons have an eerily similar roster to the one that got Arthur Smith fired, but there’s one stark difference between Raheem Morris and his predecessor’s team — Kirk Cousins.

Quarterback play has been the single biggest contribution to Atlanta’s shortcomings, especially last year. The Falcons had a roster that was young, talented and ready to end the club’s postseason drought in a terribly weak division.

However, more often than not, Desmond Ridder got in the team’s way. That’s no longer an excuse with Kirk Cousins. Atlanta gave the veteran $180 million in free agency, and the team expects him to be a multiplier of sorts.

After investing three top 10 picks in skill position players, the Falcons haven’t seen the kind of return they’d hoped for with Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson. It’s Zac Robinson and Cousins’ job to help them realize their full potential.

It’s not hyperbolic to say Kirk Cousins is the most important player in Atlanta this year; he’s set to be the catalyst that propels a talented, yet underachieving roster to make it to the playoffs. That’s why I can see why PFF named Atlanta’s signal caller the team’s X-factor.

“The high-priced part of Atlanta’s renovation at quarterback, of course, is Kirk Cousins. The veteran was on track for a career year before tearing his Achilles against Green Bay last season. Through eight games, he posted an 85.1 passing grade with 18 touchdowns. He thrives in play action, which should fit perfectly with running back Bijan Robinson and the team’s offensive line.”

However, an argument could be made that “X-Factor” should be reserved for unknown commodities, which Kirk Cousins really isn’t. The veteran quarterback is a well-known commodity; he is what he is, outside of the Achilles injury.

What’s really unknown this season is the Falcons defense. Ryan Nielsen did a lot of good things in Atlanta last year, but the team’s co-sack leaders aren’t returning, and there are legitimate questions about the personnel.

The defensive front and secondary are filled with young, unproven pieces. The staff may be high on them, but I subscribe to the ‘wait and see’ notion. The Falcons’ ultimate failure this season will more than likely come via the defense, rather than Kirk Cousins.

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

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