The Falcons…Back in the muddled middle, again…
Result: Missed Playoffs
2019 Regular season record: 7-9
2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 13th 23.8 PPG
2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 23rd 24.9 PPG
2020 Draft First Round Pick: 16
Coach: Dan Quinn
The Offseason Scenario:
After a second consecutive 7-9 season, plenty of people thought that Dan Quinn would be on the chopping block.
But that’s just not how the Blank family works.
They seem content to stick with the guy, and the team that came tantalizingly close to winning it all a few years back. Is there a lot to like in Atlanta? Sure. Matt Ryan was fifth in passing yards this season, and Julio Jones, as always, was near the top of the receiving yards ranks, behind only Michael Thomas with 1,394. That tandem is rock solid, until you look at the amount of points they produce together. Jones hauled in only six touchdown receptions this season and has only had ten scores once in his career. A duo this prolific, with almost a decade of playing together should be a red zone nightmare for opposing defenses.
But quite frankly, they just aren’t.
Inside the twenty, Julio just hasn’t posed much of a threat, and other teams can contain him, leaving Atlanta near the bottom of the league in red zone efficiency. Atlanta scored a touchdown on barely fifty percent of their trips inside the twenty, good for only 25th in the league. If Atlanta wants to get back into the playoff conversation, they’ll need to improve that efficiency, as well as tighten up their 22nd ranked passing defense.
Free Agent Frenzy:
The Falcons have made a few moves to diversify their offense. They brought in underutilized Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell on a one-year deal. He’s a shifty young pass catcher who can play a solid second fiddle to Jones. Secondly, they’ve brought in former Rams RB Todd Gurley on a one-year, $5 million dollar deal that will test Gurley’s post-injury value.
The Falcons were among the worst rushing teams in the league last season, and if the oft-injured Gurley can provide some balance, they might be able to improve on last year’s 7-9 record. They’ve essentially swapped tight ends, losing Austin Hooper to Cleveland, while bringing in Hayden Hurst from Baltimore.
Defensively, the Falcons are letting go of Vic Beasley (headed to Tennessee) and allowing De’Vondre Campbell to hit the market and bringing in free agent Dante Fowler Jr. on a three-year, $48 million dollar deal. Fowler’s presence will intimidate opposing quarterbacks, but the Falcons might miss Beasley’s versatility as the season wears on.
Seriously Premature Draft Hunches:
Defense, defense, defense.
With the exception of perhaps grabbing some offensive line depth in the middle and late rounds, I expect Atlanta to try to get younger (and cheaper) on defense via the draft.
Job number one should be that porous secondary, so expect a CB or safety with that first pick at number 16 overall. Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okodah is likely to be off the board before Atlanta picks, but they’ll still have plenty to choose from in a deep and talented class of corners. LSU’s Kristian Fulton might be around when the Falcons are on the clock, and if he is, they should snap him up. He’s physical and versatile, and he’s got plenty of reps against NFL ready guys, having played in the SEC his whole college career. C.J Henderson is a rougher prospect out of Florida who possesses incredible athleticism but might need to be coached up to avoid missed tackles.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.