How to revive or how to do even better? The editorial team of touchdownactu offers you a point of view franchise by franchise: inventory of strengths and weaknesses as well as ideas for the market and the draft. Today a franchise that hopes to start off on the right foot in its perspective of reconstruction: the Atlanta Falcons.
A coherent reconstruction. For the start of the Arthur Smith-Terry Fontenot era, and despite a very low salary margin and the departure of the emblematic Julio Jones, as receiver, the Falcons did more than defend themselves, in view of certain sectors still in deficit, such as the ground game and the pass rush. Admittedly, no flashy team really fell to Atlanta, but the main thing was above all to establish the foundations in a year when the top 5 in the draft seemed promised to the Georgians. This year, the financial situation is not yet in good shape, thanks to the huge contracts signed in the near past by the former GM, Thomas Dimitroff, but it is still possible to rely on the youth with three choices in the first two draft rounds. What can decently consider the residents of NFC Sud?
- Grady Jarrett (DT)
- Kyle Pitts (TE)
- AJ Terrell (BC)
Speaking of taulier, Matt Ryan could have been quoted in the equation. Given his 48 million on his contract in 2022, and the confidence Arthur Smith seems to have in him, the 36-year-old quarterback should be back next year, but it is his new go-to-guy who seems to bring the most guarantee in the future. Despite only one touchdown on the clock, in 2021, Kyle Pitts ended his rookie season with a record of 1,026 yards and will be expected as a more dangerous threat, starting next season, in the red zone. In defense, the pass rush has again failed in the great widths, with only 18 sacks in 17 matches, but between a Grady Jarrett capable of creating breaches on the first curtain and an AJ Terrell who is gaining power on the cover, the sector can be brought to offer beautiful promises with some coherent choices.
- Calvin Ridley (WR)
- Mike Davis (RB)
Calvin Ridley’s situation is quite special. If, as it stands, the Falcons would be wrong to part with it, given the youth and potential of the former first round draft (281 yards and 2 touchdowns in 5 games this season), it is the state of spirit of the latter which seems to bring the franchise to a dead end. Away from the field since mid-season, without a clearly explained reason, the former Alabama star has, according to certain echoes, desires elsewhere, which Terry Fontenot could grant in the event of good exchange compensation.
For Mike Davis, the blur is less clear. Mainly an option player, within the backfield, signed because of his relatively affordable price, the former Panthers has never brought any significant added value in attack, contenting himself with being a simple alternation to the beautiful story Cordarelle Patterson. Plus, cutting it would save the franchise $2.5 million on the cap. A not insignificant fact these days…
The summer man
Deion Jones (LB)
The summer man is also one of the main question marks. Because within the new defensive system put in place by coordinator Dean Pees, Deion Jones seemed unable to find his usual cruising speed. Everything is relative, given the 123 cumulative tackles and 6 passes defended by the linebacker, but he has probably lost some of his ability to be a real playmaker in a defense that still needs it badly. A forced fumble and above all no interception, for a man who has already compiled five Pix-Sick since his arrival in the pros … The alarm signal does not particularly deserve to be fired immediately, but with a contract at 20 million next season, Jones is expected to recover to inject momentum into his people.
The main free agents
- Foye Oluokun (LB)
- Cordarelle Patterson (RB)
- Russell Gage (WR)
- Younghoe Koo (K)
- Dante Fowler (DE)
Others: Olamide Zaccheus (WR), Hayden Hurst (TE), Steven Means (DE), Fabian Moreau (CB), Isaiah Oliver (CB), Duron Harmon (S), Erik Harris (S).
Jones’ awakening is all the more important as his teammate Foye Oluokun is a free agent. Top tackler in the league in 2021 (with 178 tackles), the former Yale was also able to make decisive differences, such as during his interception against Detroit. At the right price, it should be welcomed with open arms by Arthur Smith. On offense, Cordarrelle Patterson has been the very nice surprise and knows offensive coordinator Dave Ragone well, but again, market price could clearly dictate what happens next. After a complicated start to the season, Russell Gage recovered rather well, especially in the absence of Calvin Ridley. And kicker Younghoe Koo continued his strong 2020 Pro Bowler campaign with a 27/29 field goal drill. For all the other free agents, not sure that a major priority is given, except perhaps to Duron Harmon, versatile safety and trusted man of Pees.
Top 5 Needs
- edge rusher
- Running back
The floor will obviously be on the defence. With its tiny 18 sacks, the Falcons need to make strong pass rush picks, with no doubt at least one free agent and a top draft pick invested in that area of play. The defensive backfield also needs some help from the many short contracts that have come to an end. In attack, to join the undesirables, the skill positions must be dusted off and built differently, while waiting to see what will happen to the Ridley or Patterson cases for example. The quarterback position is of course a need for the future, but unless there is an interesting opportunity early in the first or second round, Arthur Smith still has some confidence in Matt Ryan.
Harold Landry (EDGE)
Like the defense of the Titans, in 2021, Harold Landry has clearly exploded. Author of 12 sacks this season, the former Boston College has a youth and a production that will make him a very courted player in free agency. Even though the tag seems inescapable, if the Titans let it test the market, they could have the Falcons as competitors. Dean Pees necessarily knows the profile, which he coached during his first years in Nashville, and Landry brings an interesting versatility, whether in terms of placement or assignment.
The new blood
Jahan Dotson (WR)
Given the massive class of receivers that comes up for the draft, many profiles could correspond to take over from Calvin Ridley. If Atlanta wanted to wait until the start of the second round to consider this need, the choice Jahan Dotson would make sense. If he is not the most physical or fastest player of his vintage, the Penn State diamond is a space swallower and a danger after reception, which could be extremely complementary to Kyle Pitts. From the top of his 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021, he can still improve in certain areas, but with good hands and an art of layout that has already hit the mark more than once, he should not be long in hearing his name pronounced next April.
Alternative : Matt Corral (QB), Dameon Pierce (RB), Jermaine Johnson (DE), Drake Jackson (DE)