Atlanta Falcons 2019 Season Preview
By Steve Moore
Last season was tough for the Atlanta Falcons. Injuries decimated their defense early in the season, and they were floundering before they could really adapt. In the first four weeks, they managed to lose two games in which they scored over 35 points. That is tough to do.
Their offense stagnated after the bye week, failing to score over 20 points in five straight games. They rallied late in the season, winning their final three games to end the season 7-9 and with some semblance of respect as the second-placed team in the NFC South.
The headline fall guy for last season was Steve Sarkisian, who was always going to be facing a tough challenge. Taking over from Kyle Shanahan and the Falcons booming 2016 season was never going to be easy. Essentally his failure to get more out of the offense cost him his job. However, what they have managed to do is replace him with Shanahan’s predecessor, Dirk Koetter. Koetter and Ryan have a history together which should hopefully limit any learning curve in the upcoming season.
One downside this offseason was the loss of Tevin Coleman, who excelled at the big play last year. However, the money he commanded meant the Falcons were never going to be able to keep him in 2019. What the Falcons did this offseason was add two offensive linemen in the first round of the draft. Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary should both be day one starts and improve that line immensely from 2018.
Koetter may have just been hounded out from his role as Head Coach of the divisional rivals Buccaneers, but the reason he got that role was that he produced Jameis Winston’s only Pro Bowl season. This came immediately after that three-year stint with the Falcons which produced two Pro Bowl seasons out of Ryan.
Another thing Ryan will enjoy is the fact that Falcons draft-room used those first two picks on linemen to protect him. Hopefully, that will also help Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith and the rest of the backs be more efficient this season.
Slot receivers produce big numbers in the Koetter offense. Ask Harry Douglas or Adam Humphries. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley outside expect big numbers from Mohamed Sanu. A big year from him could counteract the loss of Tevin Coleman from the backfield.
Fantasy owners of Freeman may also wish to take note of Koetter’s predilection to giving the primary back a significantly 20th-century workload when he was in Tampa Bay. If that transitions itself over to his second stint with the Falcons, expect a big year for backup Ito Smith if Freeman were to get injured again.
With that, the offense should be able to compete with any in the NFC South, if not the NFC as a whole.
However, despite Dan Quinn getting his chance as a Head Coach due to his work with the Seattle Seahawks defense, his Falcons’ ones have left a lot to be desired. Yes, injuries hurt them a lot last year, but it has been a common problem despite a lot of talent on the unit.
Twice in the four years of his tenure the Falcons have conceded over 400 points. Doing so last year led to Dan Quinn’s first losing season, while in 2016, the true story of 28-3 rests on the fact that, despite the high-powered offense, they had a defense that could leak points in a hurry to anyone, let alone the New England Patriots.
Both safeties’ are back from injury and Grady Jarrett’s contract may well be sorted but this is a defense that is mainly just returning the sub-par group from last year. Quinn will be hoping his key guys manage to stay healthy but if they don’t their lack of depth may get exposed. At that point, any improvement will have to come from Quinn getting more from the same group.
While others see the Falcons as contenders thanks to the possibilities of their offense, they may well have to start breaking records again to counteract the defense. As a result, if they are not careful their 7-9 blip may well begin to stretch into multiple losing seasons and the beginning of the end for the Dan Quinn era.
If they get the production from the likes of Jarrett, Deion Jones, Takkarist McKinley, Vic Beasley, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen then they could be Super Bowl contenders. However, lack of production due to injuries likely won’t cut it as an excuse again this season.
Record Prediction: 8-8
Image Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports