Nobody expects the Falcons to be good this season. Their win total was set at a paltry 4.5 by Vegas, and not only that, it’s the most bet on under by the public. USA Today predicted the Falcons to go 2-15 this year, and CBS Sports ranked Atlanta’s roster last in terms of talent. Admittedly, it will take a miracle for the Falcons to sneak their way into the playoffs. The pieces just aren’t there after trading Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. With that being said, this team has enough to soar past their projected win total and shock a lot of people in the process.
The league has become obsessed with mobile quarterbacks, and while I don’t think signal callers must run a 4.7 40-yard dash to be successful, there are situations, like in Atlanta, where it can be incredibly advantageous. Last season, the Falcons had arguably the worst offensive line, particularly when it came to protecting the passer, and they did next to nothing to upgrade this offseason.
There’s no doubt that going from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder is a substantial downgrade. However, Arthur Smith may be able to get a little more out of a guy that can move behind a line that is incapable of keeping pass rushers in front of them for more than a couple of seconds. Our own Alex Lord talked about this in a recent article:
The Falcons use of their quarterbacks’ mobility is another dynamic element Smith will have at his disposal. Considering how poor Atlanta’s offensive line is at protecting the passer, the ability to play off-script will be vital for any success in 2022.
With Smith’s creativity, there’s a decent chance this year’s offense is better than last’s with Ryan under center.
An elite cornerback tandem
The Falcons can be mocked in a lot of areas, but nobody can talk down on their cornerback duo. A.J. Terrell is one of the top ascending talents at the position and was rewarded with second-team All-Pro honors last year. Opponents intentionally worked the side of the field opposite Terrell for 60 minutes, but they won’t have that luxury this season with Casey Hayward now lined up across from him. Hayward may not be an All-Pro anymore, but he’s still the best cornerback Terrell has played with in his career. Dean Pees should have a lot of flexibility with his defense, with those two manning the perimeter.
Second year in new systems
Completely integrating new systems in the NFL is incredibly difficult. Even the best coordinators have trouble doing so in just one offseason; look no further than how the Falcons fared in their first season with Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator.
The Falcons completely overhauled their coaching staff last offseason. Arthur Smith took over the offensive play-calling duties, and Dean Pees is now running the defense. It usually takes offenses a couple of years to fully sync up under a new coordinator, and the difference from year to year can be substantial. Meanwhile, Pees has talked on several occasions about how he only called a fraction of the plays he has in his arsenal, and he expects that to change this season.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire