What are the keys to success this season for Falcons?

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The Falcons will not be a good team in 2022, but there are different forms of success. Most fans in Atlanta would consider anything less than making the postseason a failure, but the coaching staff and front office don’t see it that way. Success can be defined in many ways, but establishing the culture and taking the necessary steps in individual development must be the team’s top priorities.

Good Morning Football’s Tom Pelissero recently broke down some keys to a successful season for the Falcons:

  • Step 1: Have QB plan and execute
  • Step 2: Be bullies
  • Step 3: Be good enough on defense

Step 1

“It’s been an unusual offseason for the Atlanta Falcons,” Pelissero says, via Heavy. “They tried to get Deshaun Watson. They made a push for him. So did a couple of other teams within the division: the Saints, the Panthers. In the end, that also led to them parting ways with Matt Ryan–they traded him away to the Colts. They end up with Marcus Mariota and third-round pick Desmond Ridder. So, Step 1: get the quarterback room right.

Have a plan there and execute it, which Arthur Smith has been really good with the offense, really good with quarterbacks throughout the course of his career. He was with Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, he knows what he can do. Mariota’s issue has been he has not been able to stay healthy. It’s always a hamstring or a thumb or something going on. Keeping him on the field while Desmond Ridder has time to develop, being able to manage the expectations when you’ve go that young quarterback the moment things go wrong. Everybody wants to see him on the field––getting that room right is key,” Pelissero concludes, via Heavy.

The Falcons will likely head into the season with Mariota as the starter, given his experience advantage over Ridder, but the offense that Arthur Smith builds will complement the skillsets of both candidates.

[Matt] Ryan is the more cerebral, experienced, and accurate quarterback. But one characteristic the other two have that makes them superior is their mobility. Ryan has long been knocked for his inability to scramble, despite being an excellent pocket passer. It’s one skill that Arthur Smith should be able to leverage, regardless of which player starts this season.

In a radio interview with Andy Bunker on 92.9 The Game, Smith spoke on the subject, stating the offense will look a bit different with the mobility of the quarterbacks on the team. The Falcons’ offense will look more similar to those in Tennessee under Smith — zone rushing attack with play action rollouts built off the run. With Mariota and Ridder in Atlanta, the Falcons will continue to stress the focus of getting their passers out of the pocket.

It will also give Smith the ability in short-yardage situations to use the quarterback as an additional runner, something he did sparingly last season with the far-less-mobile Ryan. It’ll be interesting to see what Smith can accomplish with Mariota and Ridder.

The Falcons were at the bottom of the league in designed rollouts last season, but Falcons fans can expect them to be near the top in 2023. It’ll look like a much different offense, and it’s up to Smith to help cover up the deficiencies of Mariota and Ridder through play design and calling.

Step 2

“Second part: be bullies. Last year, the first pick of the Arthur Smith era, they draft 6-foot-6 Kyle Pitts. They’re not satisfied with that, so this year all of these big receivers, all of these fast guys, they go, ‘we’re gunna go get 6-foot-4 Drake London out of USC. We’re gunna double-down on the twin towers designing an offense that is based around that.’ Again, this is a strength for Arthur Smith who made the most of what he had a year ago and have those two big dudes, that’s going to create some mismatches ideal for them. They’re not going to necessarily beat you with speed but in other ways,” Pelissero continues, via Heavy.

It’s clear what type of pass catcher the Falcons are going to attract in future drafts and free agency periods. Atlanta’s stable of pass catchers more closely resembles a basketball team than football. Not only are Pitts and London big targets, Bryan Edwards, who the team traded for earlier this offseason, stands 6′3″. Auden Tate stands 6′5″, and Anthony Firkser is 6′3″ — you get the picture.

Step 3

“Last year, the Falcons had 17 sacks. That was the lowest in the NFL. That was the lowest for the Falcons since 1987. They went out and drafted a couple of guys. Arnold Ebiketie is there now. DeAngelo Malone out of Western Kentucky. They’ve got to find a way––just be good enough on defense, especially in a division where you have to face quarterbacks like Tom Brady a couple of times a year,” Pelissero finishes, via Heavy.

Atlanta boasted one of the worst defenses in the entire league last season — notoriously tallying 18 sacks, fewer than the last place Eagles by 11. However, the unit ranked near the bottom of the league in most defensive metrics — 29th in points per game (27.0), 26th in yards allowed (6,194), and 30th in third down success rate (48.4%). Dean Pees believes part of the reason for the Falcons’ struggles was that he couldn’t run the entire playbook.

“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” Pees said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You know what we’re really looking for. Last year, I’d say we put in, at the end of the year, maybe 60 percent of the defense that we really want to run. This year, it’s going to be 100 percent.”

I don’t know if opening up the entire playbook will have a bigger impact than individual development in young players like Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, Ade Ogundeji, and Ta’Quon Graham, but it should certainly help confuse opposing offenses.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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