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[Preview 2021] Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, the ass between two eras

Like every year, Touchdown Actu offers you its traditional pre-season files. You can find them all by clicking on this link.

Everything goes very quickly in the NFL. Within minutes of winning their first Super Bowl in February 2017, the Falcons are, four years later, one of the most struggling teams in the league.

Matt Ryan is still here, but his MVP years seem long gone. Around him, the transition has already started.

Last season: 4 wins – 12 losses, 4th in the NFC South

Offseason movements

The end of an era. Or almost. Julio Jones is gone. Arrived in Georgia in 2010, the receiver was for ten years the number one asset of the air attack. Here he is, a Titans player. He leaves behind Matt Ryan, who ultimately did not budge, despite some rumors. It must be said that the huge impact of the quarterback on the payroll over the next three seasons was enough to cool some.

The payroll, precisely, it is rather heavy, and the leaders could not even take advantage of the transfer window to try to fill the many holes in defense and in attack. Mike Davis is the main rookie in an attempt to strengthen the ground game. A very lean catch.

In the end, the arrival of Kyle Pitts in fourth position in the Draft is the most glamorous of the offseason. But can the beginner immediately become the focal point of the attack? Because Matt Ryan doesn’t really have time anymore.

On the bench, there is also change. Arthur Smith arrives after doing miracles with the Attack on Titan.

Notable arrivals: Erik Harris (S), Mike Davis (RB), Barkevious Mingo (DE), Fabian Moreau (CB), Jonathan Bullard (DT), Josh Andrews (OL), Lee Smith (TE)
Re-Signatures : Steven Means (DE)
Draft : Kyle Pitts (TE), Richie Grant (S), Jalen Mayfield (OL), Darren Hall (CB), Drew Dalman (C), Ta’Quon Graham (DT), Adetokunbo Ogundeji (DE), Avery Williams (CB), Frank Darby (WR)
Notable losses: Julio Jones (WR), Todd Gurley (RB), Ito Smith (RB), Alex Mack (C), Keanu Neal (S), Damontae Kazee (S), Ricardo Allen (S), Charles Harris (DE), Darqueze Dennard (CB)

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Le(s) point(s) fort(s)

We might as well be clear: there is no squad that inspires complete confidence in Atlanta. You have to look for strengths by individuality. Grady Jarrett (pictured) is the main force in the defense. A phenomenon at the center of the league. But who is going to play alongside him? Behind, Deion Jones is a very high quality linebacker. But then again, what about those around him?

Finally, and this is anything but reassuring, it is rather on the side of the special teams that we must look for reassuring elements. After a difficult start to his career, Younghoe Koo has found his marks under the Falcons jersey. In 2020, he signed a nice 37/39 on the field goals he tried, including an 8/8 over 50 yards. On the comebacks, the arrival of Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the best specialists in history, could offer some interesting help to the rest of the team.

The weak spots)

The main problem with Atlanta is that Patterson might not have a lot of punts to return. Because the defense does not seem able to stop many people. Last year, the Falcons were 29th on yards cashed (398.4 yards / game). They collected an average of 25.9 points per game (19th).

Grady Jarrett (52 tackles, 4 sacks) and Deion Jones (106 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 int) are therefore the leaders of the group, but mystery reigns almost everywhere around them. The main question is where will the pass rush come from? Dante Fowler is supposed to be the leader in the field, but he has only taken the opposing quarterback to the ground three times in 2020. This lack of pressure on the pitcher will expose already poor air coverage at the base. AJ Terrell (74 tackles, 1 int) and Duron Harmon (73 tackles, 2 int) are solid players, but not superstars, and they are surrounded by young and middle-aged players. Nothing reassuring.

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Like last year, ground defense should be the bright spot. But in the air, it should still be very complicated.

The hope for the Atlanta defense is the arrival of Dean Pees as defensive coordinator. A true reference in his field, the 71-year-old coach has accumulated success in New England and Baltimore.

In attack, again, the weaknesses of the last campaign have not been corrected. The ground game was 27th in the league. It will be difficult to do better with Mike Davis (165 races, 642 yards, 6 TDs – 59 rec, 373 yards, 2 TDs).

X factor (s)

Arthur Smith is a brilliant offensive spirit? So much the better. It will take at least that for Atlanta to win games. At 36, Matt Ryan (65%, 4581 yards, 26 TDs, 11 int) is now a solid quarterback, but more the MVP he was. With Calvin Ridley (90 rec, 1374 yards, 9 TDs), Russell Gage (72 rec, 786 yards, 4 TDs) and Kyle Pitts, he has an excellent trio of targets. But the problems are never far away. Behind these three, there are few guarantees.

Worse, the offensive line lost in quality and experience with the departure of Alex Mack. Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom will be the sure values ​​of a group which will still struggle to open breaches. It will therefore be necessary to hold out at all costs for Ryan and the air attack to try to work miracles.

Points, points and more points. Balloons that fly. There is hope.

Player to watch: Kyle Pitts, tight end

He’s only 20, but the pressure is already on Kyle Pitts’ shoulders. This is what happens when a team has a crumbling squad but a quarterback who still hopes a little he can shine. Presented as a phenomenon when he leaves college, the tight end will quickly become one of the main targets of the attack. At a minimum, he should be number “1a” next to Calvin Ridley.

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With the University of Florida, he caught 100 balls for 1,492 yards and 18 touchdowns in 24 games. In a dream, he would achieve almost the same statistics in 17 games this year.

Calendar

Eagles, @Buccaneers, @Giants, Washington, Jets, repos, @Dolphins, Panthers, @Saints, @Cowboys, Patriots, @Jaguars, Buccaneers, @Panthers, @49ers, Lions, @Bills, Saints

The audio preview of the Podcast

In summary

Stuck between the end of the Matt Ryan cycle and the arrival of young players in a depopulated workforce and blocked by an over-filled payroll, the Falcons are in one of the worst possible situations in the NFL. The defense is weak, the attack shallow.

The good news is a rather weak schedule, with NFC East on the schedule, as well as quite a few poorly ranked teams. Despite this advantage, we should not hope to see Atlanta get involved in the fight for the playoffs. In their division alone, the franchise is light years away from Tampa.

It’s going to be a long year, and the next Draft pick should still be high.

The forecast: 4 wins – 13 losses

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