Nothing will change unless we find players who elevate themselves over adversity..
I live in North Carolina, so naturally I get more information on the Panthers than most Falcons fans probably do. There's one key difference between the Panthers and Falcons: they overcame adversity. The Falcons have done anything but "Rise Up" since this streak of poor play started. Remember the Panthers lost number one WR Kelvin Benjamin before the season even started, but they did not waver. In fact, they may have even gotten stronger. A WR group of Ted Ginn (my God is he awful), PhillyCorey Brown, and Jerricho Cotchery is having more offensive success than ours. Cam Newton - say what you want about him - has elevated his team's offense to a playoff-worthy level. Whether that is solely because of his heart and attitude or secretly because of the masterstroke of Mike Shula, the fact remains that Cam Newton has thrown 10 TDs to 1 INT in his last three games. Our guy? 5 TDs, 6 INTs. Yikes. If not Newton, then the players around him have elevated themselves and risen to the challenge. It would seem to me that no one around Matt Ryan - perhaps even himself included - has done anything to suggest to me that they are capable of elevating themselves to a level that is worthy of playoff success. Until we find players that are that way, we will continually fool ourselves into thinking the Falcons are any good.
Everything will change.
The 5-0 start to this season gave many of us - myself included - a false hope where this roster was concerned. It's easy to forget that Pete Carroll - one of Dan Quinn's primary mentors - gutted the Seattle roster over the first few years to rebuild it into what it is now. I think the same is going to happen here. That will mean that some key veterans will be gone. Guys who are "ok" will likely not be retained. We may also see a few more "cheap" free agents come through the door. The net result will be a very different roster yet again, with the hope of finally turning this ship around. The deterioration of this team didn't happen overnight, and neither will the rebuild.
Atlanta will be picking top ten for the third year in a row.
This team is bad. After a dominant 5-0 start, the Falcons look entirely unable to beat another team. They can't tackle. They don't finish. The passing game has devolved into an unwatchable disaster. No players are stepping up. In fact, with the release of Lamar Holmes, the Falcons have only Julio Jones and Matt Bosher from the 2010, 2011, and 2012 drafts. TWO players earned a second contract. None of these problems are new. The Falcons have taken a nearly historic nose-dive, and have had no idea how to fix it. It looks as if there are problems from the top to bottom of this team. On the bright side, we are only forced to watch this awful team for about another month.
I still think Kyle Shanahan will likely be safe, but this is a team on the cusp of a major bloodletting. William Moore could be gone, Terry Robiskie could be gone, Bryan Cox could be gone, the Falcons may be out shopping for 2/5ths of their offensive line once again, and so on. This is what happens when you underperform, and when the roster your new head coach inherited isn't one he was necessarily in love with. The Falcons will let go of veterans who are underperforming and costly, and they'll attempt to retool the team a bit more to coax better play out of Matt Ryan and to give Quinn the kind of fast and physical defense he truly craves. It's also possible the front office looks very different in 2016, giving the Falcons a very new flavor just a year after they hired their new staff.
If it leads to more wins, I'm all for it.
Tackling has reemerged as an issue
During Atlanta's 5-0 start, poor tackling was one of the few blemishes against Philadelphia and Dallas. Since the team was winning, not many people were overly concerned about it. Weekly turnovers and red-zone blunders have become the most prevalent issues. It has overshadowed yesterday's poor tackling, which led to three notable big plays. Justin Durant whiffed badly on an 18-yard catch by Charles Sims. After allowing a big play on third down, Jalen Collins allowed a 32-year old Vincent Jackson to spin right by him for a 36-yard gain. Then, Jameis Winston's infamous run came from pure determination and Atlanta's failure to properly wrap up. Paul Worrilow failed to complete the initial hit, while Brooks Reed and Durant (two of their biggest free-agent signings) couldn't bring him down. All three Falcon linebackers failed to tackle the opposing team's quarterback on a third-and-nineteen. It doesn't get much lower than that. Linebacker appears to be one of the biggest needs going into the off-season.
More roster turnover.
Atlanta's 5-0 start skewed our expectations a bit. We watched them dominate Dallas in the second half of the Week 3 matchup and follow that up by obliterating Houston. They came away with a thrilling overtime victory against Washington, then things fell apart. Truthfully, the Falcons' 6-6 record is probably an accurate representation of what type of team they are. There just isn't much talent on the roster, and the flaws that were masked when they were winning have taken center stage in the current five-game losing streak. Dan Quinn is still getting his feet wet as a head coach in the league, and I expect next year's roster to better reflect his philosophy. This process (there's that word again) may take a few years, but we could be in for a treat.