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Know Your Enemy: Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons are next up for KYE NFC South. The Falcons saved HC Dan Quinn’s job with a 6-2 finish to the season after a 1-7 start for a 7-9 record.  Dirk Koetter is the OC and Raheem Morris is the DC in Atlanta. Falcons were 3-5 at home and 4-4 on the road. Matt Ryan returns at QB after a typical (92.1 QB rating) season for him.

Strengths

Passing Game

The passing game is still a strength after a 4,400 yard 26 TD 14 interception performance by Matt Ryan. Julio Jones (1,394 yard 6 TDs) is one of the best WRS in the league (despite lack of TDs) and Calvin Ridley (866 yards and 7 TDs in 13 games) is a budding star. Hayden Hurst (349 yard and 2 TDs) is an above average young tight end with untapped potential. Hurst was added in a trade with the Ravens. Hurst has big shoes to fill though Austin Hooper (Browns) had 787 yards and 6 TDs last year.

The depth is lacking at WR with Justin Gage and Laquan Treadwell in Atlanta. Ryan should still have over 4,000 yards and could have a 30 TD season. Julio and Ridley can carry the passing offense even Ryan gets decent protection.

Linebacker

Deion Jones is a great coverage LB. Foyseade Olukun graded above average as well and can improve in his youth. Dante Fowler was added to be a pass rushing specialist from DE/LB with high potential and better production with the Rams. Deonne Buchannon and 4th round pick Mychal Walker is decent depth. The Falcons should have strong LB play in 2020.

Could be Strength/Weakness

Offensive Line

Jake Matthews is a good LT and Alex Mack is a good center. James Carpenter is not a good LG but has experience. 2nd year player Kaleb McGary had a rough rookie year at RT being a 1st round pick. RG Chris Lindstrom looked good in 300 snaps but dealt with injuries in 2019 as another 1st round pick. The Falcons hope Lindstrom and McGary take big steps forward to solidify the line. If they do, Ryan will have much more success and less turnovers.

The interior depth is solid with Jamon Brown, Justin McCray and 3rd round pick Matt Hennessey. The tackle depth is very lacking though with Jeff Wetzel and Evin Ksieracyk. Falcons better hope Matthews and McGary stay health. McCray could play there in a pinch too. This offensive line is a wild card for 2020.

Might/May Not have a Pass Rush

Fowler is a good player but not a game changer replacing disappointing Vic Beasley. Tak McKinley has never taken the next step as a 1st round pick. Grady Jarrett is a beast though and Marlon Davidson was a nice DT addition in Round 2.

Tyler Davison is an average DT and Allen Bailey is a poor DE for pass rush. Charles Harris was a bust from Miami that they added as well. The Falcons hope Fowler and McKinley pick up their games a good amount to have a consistent pass rush. Jarrett will help but that is not enough to stop teams.

Weaknesses

Run Game

Todd Gurley was added but he isn’t the same player he once was after knee injuries. He has had some monster seasons though and the Falcons hope he finds that again and stays healthy. Freeman stunk in 2019 and is a free agent. Brian Hill and Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison is average at best depth. The Falcons hope to run block better and will need Gurley to stay healthy.

Secondary

AJ Terrell was a reach at CB in Round 1 but has potential out of Clemson. Terrell has big shoes to replace stud number 1 CB Desmond Trufant. Isiaah Oliver did not play well in 2019 with a poor grade. Damonte Kazee is average at best and Kendall Sheffield struggled in 2019 too. Falcons added former 1st round pick Darqueze Dennard as well right before training camp. He has a chance to crack the lineup and rejuvenate his career after busting for the Bengals. The Falcons CBs have way more questions than answers.

Safety is solid with Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. Allen struggled in 2019 though and Neal only played 166 snaps. Neal must get healthier and Allen must get much better. Kazee should probably play more safety than CB for pass coverage.

Expect this secondary to be burnt toast if they don’t get consistent pass rush.

Overall

The Falcons host the Bears in Week 3 and the Lions in Week 7. Atlanta travels to Green Bay Week 4 and Minnesota Week 6. This team is pretty awful on paper but they found a way to win 7 games last year. Don’t take them likely but the entire NFC North should sweep them in 2020. Falcons will fight the Panthers for 3rd place in the NFC South. Also Taylor Swift is ugly. Fin