Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been consistently outspoken about how the Falcons are not rebuilding, but the roster paints a different picture. Sure, Matt Ryan is an above-average quarterback in this league, and both sides of the ball have ascending players — A.J. Terrell, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Jake Matthews, Chris Lindstrom, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, etc. — but still, there lie weaknesses on the roster. I already explored which position groups are the strongest and weakest, but more than just edge defenders need bolstering.
Moving on to the weakest position group on the roster, which is led by Dante Fowler. Fowler is by far the most talented and proven pass rusher in this group, but 2020 was Fowler’s worst season thus far — career lows in sacks and games played, missed more tackles than usual, and less effective against the run. He took a pay-cut and had a year voided from his contract, so the future for Fowler in Atlanta doesn’t like great.
Behind him is a bevy of unproven pass rushers — Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Steven Means, and Barkevious Mingo. Keke is the most experienced out of this rotational group and will be a valuable piece for this team because he can do anything this coaching staff asks him to do, even if he doesn’t do anything spectacularly. He’s solid in run-support, can drop into coverage, and obviously rush the passer. Last year with Ted Monachino in Chicago, Mingo racked up 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and two passes defended. Ogundeji and JTM are both versatile defenders who can be used in multiple alignments across the line of scrimmage, but don’t inspire much confidence
Again, the edge defenders aren’t the only position group that could use a few extra bodies. The cornerback room is questionable at best. Without knowing how Fabian Moreau will perform, it is hard to predict who will start opposite Terrell. Moreau will likely battle Darren Hall for the boundary corner position, while Isaiah Oliver and Hall battle for the nickel role. Behind those three, things look grim.
The defensive line needs someone to step up next to Grady Jarrett, and whether that is Marlon Davidson or a platoon of interior defenders, the Falcons need more production from the trenches — on both sides of the ball. The defensive front may be abysmal, but the offensive line isn’t much better. Outside of Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom, the Falcons have no proven players. Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman will battle it out at center, while Jalen Mayfield and Josh Andrews will likely compete for the left guard position — neither are ideal.
The Falcons could use the most help at offensive line and on the edge, but these aforementioned position groups all need more bodies. Now, whether that be a starter or more rotational depth is case by case, but this roster is definitely closer to rebuilding than competing in my estimation.
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