The Falcons started the 2019 season with a 1-7 record, including six straight losses going into their Week 9 Bye. With the team’s worst start in 2007 (started 1-6), head coach Dan Quinn’s job was on the hot seat.
However, the second half of the season put the team’s true potential on display. In their final eight games, the Falcons finished the season 6-2, including a four game winning streak to end the season.
The Falcons strong finish to the season got them second place in the NFC South with a 7-9 record and saved Dan Quinn’s job.
The Falcons have had an up and down offseason as they have added pieces to their roster, but also lost some key contributors.
The key additions include EDGE Dante Fowler Jr, RB Todd Gurley, TE Hayden Hurst, DE Charles Harris, and LB Deone Bucannon. The draft provided big additions with CB A.J. Terrell and DT Marlon Davidson
The key departures include RB Devonta Freeman, TE Austin Hooper, TE Luke Stocker, OT Ty Sambrailo, G Wes Schweitzer, DE Vic Beasley, DE Adrian Clayborn, LB De’Vondre Campbell, and CB Desmond Trufant.
After the look at key additions and departures, let’s take a look at the Falcons roster.
Starter: Matt Ryan
Backups: Matt Schaub, Kurt Beckert, and Danny Etling
Matt Ryan has not been the same QB since his First-Team All-Pro selection in 2016. Last year, Ryan threw for under 4,500 yards for the second time in three seasons and 14 interceptions, which is tied for the third-most in a single season is his career.
The offensive line also performed severely last year, surrendering 48 sacks, which is tied for the most in the league. Austin Hooper is no longer with the team as he is now in Cleveland.
Ryan has a dynamic duo at WR with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and Laquon Treadwell signed with the team this offseason, giving Ryan a replacement to the loss of Mohamed Sanu.
Expect a bounce back season for Ryan as he looks to have a stronger offensive line and use of his weapons this season.
Starter: Todd Gurley
Backups: Brian Hill, Ito Smith, and Qadree Ollison
The RB position could be one of the weaker spots on the roster, solely based on the uncertainty with the health of Todd Gurley. His lingering knee issues continually bothered him last season with Rams and he was released.
If Gurley is healthy and has no lingering symptoms, he can be a huge contributor and key piece to the Atlanta offense, but if lingering symptoms are present, the backfield for the Falcons could be a mess this season.
Starters: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Laquon Treadwell
Backups: Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Devin Gray
The Falcons are one of the strongest teams at the WR position. This core is led by one of the league’s best WRs in Julio Jones. Add in Calvin Ridley, who has been a homegrown product that has become a dynamic duo with Jones.
Treadwell has not gotten a steady start to his career, only recording 65 receptions over his first four seasons with the Vikings. Treadwell has a huge opportunity to establish himself as another option for Matt Ryan, who played his best with three dependable WRs.
Expect high production from the WR unit this year for the Falcons as they return their dynamic duo. Hopefully Jones gets more targets in the red zone this season
Starter: Hayden Hurst
Backups: Khari Lee and Jaeden Graham
After the departure of Austin Hopper to Cleveland in free agency, Atlanta traded a fifth-round draft pick to grab Hayden Hurst from the Ravens.
Hurst is a pick acquisition for the Falcons as he brings great athleticism at the TE position and Matt Ryan has already expressed his terrific feelings about Hurst and the athleticism he possesses.
Hurst has a chance to be a key contributor to the Falcons offense and Matt Ryan does a great job of utilizing his TEs.
Starters: Jake Matthews, James Carpenter, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom, and Kaleb McGary
Backups: Matt Hennessy, John Wetzel, Austin Capps, and Jason Brown
The offensive line for the Falcons last year was one of the worst in the entire NFL. The front line surrendered 48 sacks on the season and needed help drastically this offseason.
In the draft, the Falcons added Matt Hennessy and Austin Capps thereby bringing in new pieces to develop on the offensive line. Alex Mack will be a key aspect to their development with his veteran leadership.
Kaleb McGary proved to be a solid piece on the line last year, only committing six penalties, with zero holding calls. Expect development on the offensive line through the rookies and now second-year tackle, McGary.
Starters: Allen Bailey, Tyeler Davison, Grady Jarrett, and Takkarist McKinley
Backups: Marlon Davidson, John Cominsky, Austin Larkin, and Charles Harris
The defensive line for the Falcons brings a lot of experience to pair with young piece Takkarist McKinley and second-round draft pick, Marlon Davidson.
Marlon Davidson could come in and immediately compete for the DT2 position with Davison and will get early snaps at the beginning of the season.
Grady Jarrett is one of the top interior defenders in the league and is a big piece of the defensive unit. Takkarist McKinley is developing and becoming a homegrown piece for the defense.
Grady Jarrett will be the anchor of the front four and the addition of Dante Fowler who will play EDGE and be an instant contributor on the defense.
Starters: Dante Fowler Jr. and Deion Jones
Backups: Deone Bucannon, Foyesade Oluokun, LaRoy Reynolds, Bryson Young, and Mykal Walker
The LB core for the Falcons got two major upgrades this offseason. Dante Fowler is going to be a huge contributor right away for the defense at the EDGE rusher position. He reunites with Dan Quinn on a three-year deal and will be a leader of the unit.
Deion Jones is one of the the top LBs in the league. In three of his first four seasons, Jones had over 100 tackles, and the one season he didn’t reach 100 tackles, he played in only six games due to injury.
Jones has also been a key player in coverage as he has nine interceptions over his first four seasons. Throughout the start of his career, Jones has proven to be a dual threat and versatile asset to the LB position and Atlanta defense.
Starters: A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, and Kendall Sheffield
Backups: Jordan Miller, C.J. Reavis, and Delrick Abrams
The CB position is the weakest for the Falcons this season but has a promising young trio in development.
After selecting Clemson CB A.J. Terrell to start alongside Isaiah Oliver (2018 second-rounder) and Kendall Sheffield (2019 fourth-rounder), the Falcons have set themselves up for the future.
However, the trio is going to struggle this year with the little experience accumulated between the three, especially with the offensive-heavy NFC South. This will be a tough year for the CB position, but it will help the development of the young core.
Starters: Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen
Backups: Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasman, and Jaylin Hawkins
The back end of the secondary for the Falcons makes up for little experience of the three CBs.
Allen displayed his physicality last season with 85 tackles, along with his play in coverage, recording eight passes defense and two interceptions. The six-year veteran is going to be an anchor of the secondary to aid in the development and play of the young corners.
Keanu Neal is entering his fifth season with the Falcons, but has only played four games over the past two season due to injury. In his two full seasons, Neal displayed his strong tackling ability recording over 100 tackles each year. His play in coverage has been solid as well, recording 14 passes defensed over his two full seasons.
If Neal can stay healthy, he and Allen will be crucial assets to the secondary to lead the youth at the position.
Starters: Younghoe Koo (K), Ryan Allen (P), and Josh Harris (LS)
Koo has proven to be an essential asset to the Falcons with his rare ability to win the onside kick. He is a weapon for the Falcons late in the game when they are trailing.
Along with his onside kick abilities, Koo was successful on 23 on of his 26 field goals last year and converted 15 of his 16 extra point attempts.
Allen enters his second season as punter for the Falcons and is coming off of a season with a net average of 41.9 yards per punt.
The Falcons could be a sneaky team for the six or seven seed in the NFC playoffs as they have a strong offense led by Ryan and Jones with Hurst and Gurley looking to provide a boost to the offensive production.
On the defensive side, some big acquisitions could make the difference in getting after the QB and also staying healthy. All of these aspects after a busy offseason could get them into the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.