Heller’s Three Burning Questions 3.0: Atlanta Falconsby Joe Heller June 21, 2021 1 comment
With the 2021 NFL Draft over and the schedule officially being released, it’s time for my third annual 32 part series where the top three questions will be posed for each NFL team. Here are those three questions for the Atlanta Falcons.
Be sure to check out all of Heller’s Three Burning Questions.
What Can be Expected from Their First-Time Head Coach?
After last season’s 0-5 start the Falcons relieved head coach Dan Quinn of his duties. Entering the upcoming season, they possess one of the first-time head coaches in Arthur Smith. Smith is the former offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. Fans in the ATL are excited at the prospect that their team is going to control the football and score points, lots of points.
Maybe even bigger than the Smith hire was that of Dean Pees as the defensive coordinator. Pees held the same role also in Tennessee and was semi-retired the last two seasons. But when he ran the Titans’ defense, they were a unit that was among the better units in the league. He’s been a guy to get the most out of his players. So this team is assembled for big things and quickly.
Much Remained the Same?
In his thirteenth season in the NFL, Matt Ryan passed for over 4,000 yards for the tenth consecutive year. His season totals were 4,581 and 26 touchdowns in 2020. At first glance, it would seem like a solid season for a quarterback. But for Ryan and the Falcons, those stats translated into a 4-12 record. Many weeks saw the team playing from behind.
With Just one Major Difference?
Ryan for the first time in a decade, won’t have seven-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones among his playmakers. The team traded the disgruntled wide receiver to the Titans. The return was far from what they expected, but the teams interested in Jones were leery. A nagging hamstring injury limited Jones all last season, he only started nine games in many of those games he was used sporadically.
Though he played in just nine games, Jones’ season totals were 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns. Which, in essentially half a season on a bum hamstring are still rather impressive numbers. Proving Jones is still among the top players at his position, when healthy.
Calvin Ridley, who benefited from Jones being sidelined in 2020 will be the No. 1 receiver. Ridley in his third season a year ago had 90 receptions for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. The team signed receiver Tajae Sharpe, a speedy slot receiver, who was on Smith’s offense in Tennessee and could be a solid weapon for Ryan.
No offseason move was bigger than drafting Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, arguably the best skill position player in the draft, with their No. 4 overall pick. If he can transition quickly he will pick up some of the void left by Jones.
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