The Falcons were ravaged by injuries all of 2018. Comically, they were the only team that did not have any players on Injured Reserve coming into the regular season. That did not last long. In week one, the Falcons lost two Pro-Bowlers and arguably the most essential pieces of their defense at Philadelphia.
Not too long after, Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles, decimating the back end of their secondary. Without Neal and Allen on the field, many of Trufant and Alford’s flaws were exposed; which led to Atlanta finishing with the 28th ranked pass defense.
The offense wasn’t so lucky either. Andy Levitre was shut down after two weeks of football. Brandon Fusco joined him after suffering a gruesome broken ankle, and Devonta Freeman’s season never really got started. Multiple lower-body injuries forced him to miss fourteen games.
The Falcons didn’t just lose players; they lost stars. Atlanta’s defense with Jones and Neal is a different beast – ask the Eagles after they played the Falcons in week one. They were fortunate to score 18 points, and half of the game Neal was playing with a torn ACL and Jones had a broken foot. Look at all the critical pieces the Falcons lost a year ago, and they still managed to go 7-9. There’s a reason to be optimistic about this team returning to the playoffs in 2019, but that can only happen if the injury bug stays away, which has not gotten off to a pristine start.
Here we are, not even in June, and the Falcons have lost their first player for the season. Steven Means, a defensive end that spent last year in Atlanta and signed a one-year contract extension a couple of months ago, tore his Achilles in a non-contact injury on Monday during OTA’s.
Means wasn’t anything more than a depth signing on the defensive line, but he did show the ability to be a rotational piece at the end of last year. Regardless, the defensive end position was already extremely weak – bringing back Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, and Adrian Clayborn as their primary weapons. Now, it’s even worse. Imagine if one of those three names above hits the IR. The Falcons might have the worst pass rush in NFL history.
Losing Means shouldn’t change the level of excitement heading into this year, but it does serve as a humble reminder of how little depth the Falcons have across the defensive line, and specifically at defensive end. I look for the team to acquire a replacement sooner rather than later. Dan Quinn will also have to take an even closer look at some of the undrafted free agents that can rush the passer. ESPN’s Vaughn Mcclure casts UAB’s Tre’ Crawford as a name to keep an eye on.
Maybe undrafted @t_crawford4 from UAB will get a chance to make it with the Falcons as another body at end. He's already impressed with speed off the edge as an outside linebacker
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) May 22, 2019