It’s difficult to grade the 2022 Falcons. On the one hand, they exceeded expectations. Many outlets pegged them as the worst team in the league coming into the season, but through eight games, they sat at 4-4 with a real chance at the playoffs in an abysmal NFC South. On the other hand, they have just two wins in their last eight games, which isn’t promising, no matter how you slice it.
Many of the same problems emerged in 2022 that have plagued the team over the last five seasons. The defense couldn’t get any pressure, and the secondary was littered with holes. As a result, the Falcons couldn’t get off the field on third down and were once again one of the worst all-around defenses in football. The offense showed some promise, but their lack of a passing attack held them back considerably. It wasn’t a formula for winning football, but there are some things to be optimistic about heading into 2023.
Tyler Allgeier is a thoroughbred
As Alex wrote yesterday, Tyler Allgeier deserves some Rookie of the Year consideration. I’m not saying he should win it, but he’s been arguably the best rookie running back in football this season. Had he not been sharing a backfield with Cordarrelle Patterson and Caleb Huntley all season, he would probably be the favorite to take home the award.
Personal accolades aside, it looks like Arthur Smith has found his feature back. He’s become a workhorse down the stretch of the season, rushing for 296 yards on 53 carries over the last few weeks. He’s also totaled 52 receiving yards on six catches in that same time frame. With 900 rushing yards on the season, Allgeier has a terrific shot at becoming just the second Falcons rookie to rush for over 1,000 yards, and the first to do so since 1979. With 124 rushing yards against the Bucs, he’ll break William Andrews’ franchise rookie rushing record.
The stats are wonderful, but I don’t think they even paint the entire picture. Allgeier is a bowling ball. He looks impossible to tackle, constantly bouncing off defenders and falling forward for extra yards. Something tells me there will be several Pro Bowls in Allgeier’s future.
The right side of the offensive line
By far the best part of this Falcons team has been their ability to run the ball. Allgeier is a huge part of that, but none of it would be possible without the improvement that has occurred from the offensive line up front.
If you had told me the Falcons were going to boast one of the league’s most potent rushing attacks before the start of the season, I wouldn’t have believed it. This was one of the worst overall units a year ago. But changes at guard and center, along with the improvements from the right side of the line gave the Falcons a new identity. Not having Jalen Mayfield out there as a starter provided an incredible boost, but Chris Lindstrom, and even more so Kaleb McGary, took their games to the next level in 2022.
Lindstrom was already one of the better guards in football, but he’s deserving of All-Pro honors for his work this season and has already been selected to his first Pro Bowl. McGary, however, came into the year fighting for his job. The Falcons declined to pick up his fifth-year option, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. I can’t blame the Falcons for their decision after the way McGary performed throughout his first three seasons, but in hindsight, it was a mistake. He’s been one of the better right tackles in football and will now fetch a multi-year contract for someone.
With plenty of cap space next year, I hope the Falcons find a way to bring McGary back. It often takes tackles some time to adjust to the NFL, and this has blossomed into one of the elite tandems on the right side of the line.
Drake London can be a #1 wide receiver
London’s receiving stats aren’t eye-popping — 66 catches for 746 yards and four touchdowns through 16 games. However, that’s not taking into account that the Falcons have barely passed the ball all season. London has made some spectacular plays, and his physicality fits right in with the identity that Arthur Smith is attempting to instill in his offense. I didn’t love the pick at first, but I now think this is a young man with the potential to become a star in Atlanta. The Falcons must add some more weapons around him and figure out the quarterback position, but London has the makings of a true #1 wide receiver.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire