PFF’s bold predictions for Falcons: Bijan Robinson, Arnold Ebiketie, and more

NFL: NOV 10 Falcons at Panthers

The Falcons are expected to compete for the NFC South title in 2023 after years of irrelevance. The division is in the worst state it’s been in a long time. There’s no reason Atlanta shouldn’t punch their ticket to the postseason via a home playoff contest.

That’s not necessarily a bold prediction; in fact, many Falcons fans probably expect the team to finish over .500, which should be good enough for a playoff berth. However, PFF does have some bold predictions.

1. Bijan Robinson leads the league in rushing as a rookie

The Atlanta Falcons lean on the run more than any other team, and it’s behind an offensive line that can dominate on the ground. Four different running backs a season ago averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry, but the Falcons still drafted Bijan Robinson because of his special potential. Robinson set a PFF record with 104 broken tackles last season and was hailed as the best running back prospect to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson (2007). He has also looked like a major factor in the passing game from glimpses of training camp and preseason. He could have a special season.

Honestly, I don’t know how bold this really is from Pro Football Focus. Bijan Robinson is the 8th overall pick and is bound to lead the team in touches, given his value as a runner and receiver.

The Falcons ran the ball more than almost any offense in football last year, but fans can expect a more balanced approach in 2023, think a combination of the 2021 and 2022 offenses. Moreover, the Falcons running back by committee will limit Robinson’s carries. It’s in the realm of possibilities; it’s not that bold, but it’s not likely.

2. The Falcons are the only team in the NFL to run more than pass (again)

With Desmond Ridder installed as the starter and the aforementioned Bijan Robinson in the backfield, the Falcons have no incentive to back off their status as the NFL’s run-heaviest offense. In fact, leaning into that as an identity may play in a league that has been trending ever more pass-happy for years. The Falcons were the only team in the league to call runs more often than passes last season, and it’s very possible that will be true again in 2023.

This one is actually bold. The Falcons might run more than they pass, but it’s a long shot and certainly won’t be the only ones if they do. The Colts and Anthony Richardson, the Bears and Justin Fields, and the Ravens and Lamar Jackson are all candidates to run more than they pass.

However, I don’t expect that to be the case for the Falcons. As I said, fans can expect a mix of the pass heavy 2021 offense and the run heavy 2022 offense. Desmond Ridder is much more mobile than Matt Ryan and should be a better passer than Marcus Mariota. The Falcons should be much more balanced in 2023.

3. Arnold Ebiketie leads the team in total pressures

Not all good players hit the ground running in the NFL; some still develop at the more traditional pace with significant jumps in Years 2 and 3. Arnold Ebiketie played more than 500 snaps for the Falcons in his rookie season, but the defense was bad and he was underwhelming as a pass rusher. He has been having an excellent preseason and has all the tools to improve in a big way this year, not to mention more help around him. Last season, Grady Jarrett led the team with 45 total pressures, but Ebiketie has 50-pressure potential.

Now, this is what I’m talking about! This is bold. Arnold Ebiketie might not even start, so this is certainly unlikely. Moreover, the Falcons defensive front rotation will limit any one player from accruing a lot more snaps than another. If Ebiketie led the defense in pressures, it could be really bad or really good.

The bad — the new faces didn’t make a difference. The good — Ebiketie’s improved dramatically.

The latter is much more likely, in my opinion. In that same breath, the improvement along the front should give Ebiektie and others more one-on-one opportunities. This is an interesting one. I love it.

Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire
Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: