The Falcons were tossed around like a rag doll this past Sunday in their first road game of the season against the Lions. Detroit entered the contest the more hobbled group, dealing with a multitude of injuries, but you wouldn’t know it by what took place from the opening whistle.
It was a concerning effort from a Falcons team that looked to be building some momentum following a come-from-behind victory over the Packers. Several areas have to be improved; here are the most concerning issues facing the team as they embark on a journey across the pond to take on the Jaguars in Week 4.
3. Kyle Pitts and Drake London‘s usage
It’s been mentioned briefly over the first two weeks, and Arthur Smith hates to answer questions about it, but failing to get the ball into the hands of two players you selected in the top eight picks is a problem. It is one that can be ignored when the Falcons win, but it won’t be when the offense looks like it did on Sunday. Arthur Smith has to make a concerted effort to get these two guys the ball more. The pass game to this point has been very vanilla. Eventually, Smith is going to have to get better play from his offensive line and quarterback to open up the playbook. If not, the ceiling of this team will always be capped at mediocre.
We aren’t quite at the point where a quarterback change has to be discussed, but Desmond Ridder has looked like the 30th best quarterback in football through three weeks, and that might be generous. He’s thrown numerous balls that should have been intercepted and even more that are not even close to the intended receiver. Sprinkle in some passes that have nearly resulted in his teammates getting decapitated, and it won’t be long before Arthur Smith is facing constant questions about switching to the veteran in Taylor Heinicke.
In no way am I blaming Ridder entirely for what happened on Sunday. Few quarterbacks, especially young ones, would have had much success with the way the offensive line played, but through seven starts, he has shown little improvement and is much closer to the problem rather than the solution.
1. Offensive Line
This is the biggest, and frankly, most surprising issue the Falcons have faced through the first three weeks. The offensive line returned four of five starters. 2023 second-round pick Matthew Bergeron is the only new face, which is why most people regarded Atlanta’s offensive line as a top unit in the league.
That hasn’t been the case thus far, particularly in pass protection. Ridder was sacked seven times by the Lions, a team that only had one sack coming into their Week 3 matchup, and most of the sacks weren’t even competitive. Offensive linemen were blown off the line of scrimmage and completely whiffed on blocks. Plays didn’t even have time to develop, with Ridder oftentimes not even getting the opportunity to look downfield. The pass game is a problem for multiple reasons, but it has no chance if the Falcons’ offensive line doesn’t pass protect. The good news is they’ve shown they can do a much better job, but what happened on Sunday was unacceptable.
Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire