After what appeared to be an oddly placed bye week for the Atlanta Falcons, the general notion is that the week five bye for the Falcons came at an opportune time. Even though the team started 3-1 and feature two of the better units in the league on both sides of the ball, work is still to be done for the talented team.
So today, I will focus on which key tasks the team should focus on during this week leading up to their week six home contest against the Miami Dolphins.
Task #1: Get Healthy Overall
The Falcons have been bit considerably by the injury bug during the first quarter of the season. During week four against Buffalo, the team lost starting receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu to hip and hamstring injuries respectively. Jones has already stated he will miss no games, but it is very possible he won't necessarily be 100% for a few weeks. Sanu has been shelved for 1-to-2 weeks thanks to his hamstring injury and his status against Miami in week six is tentative at the moment.
That same game was the setting for defensive end Jack Crawford's bicep injury which he suffered against Buffalo, and he is now out for the season.
Up to this point, injuries to free safety Ricardo Allen (concussion), right tackle Ryan Schraeder (concussion), defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw (ankle), and edge rusher Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring) have caused all four to miss precious game time but all four are expected to be back in action within the next couple of weeks or sooner.
At full strength, the Falcons have a great amount of talent. As noted, key personnel have been dinged up and the return of some of these Falcons can help bolster the roster.
Task #2: Fix Offensive Philosophy
On offense, the Atlanta Falcons are fourth overall (388.2 ypg), eighth in scoring (26 ppg), sixth in first downs (22 per game), and second in yards per play (6.2).
Seems super productive right? It is however, something still seems a little off about the offense as a whole. The absence of Schraeder plays a part as he is one of the best in the league at the position. The development of right guard Wes Schweitzer is another factor in the offense reaching it's full potential. But only one factor stands out above the rest.
I, for one, am an advocate for offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. I was since day one, and his ability as a play caller has been his best weapon during his time in college at USC, Washington, and Alabama. So far this season, his play calling has been 'ok' for the most part but there are a few things that he has shown that has hampered even greater offensive success.
At times, specifically during the Buffalo and Chicago contests, there did not seem to be much of a direction that the play calling was headed in, and Sark has not approached the game with the mind frame to attack the weaknesses of opposing defenses. That is something former coordinator Kyle Shanahan did last season. Even with the given stats above, it is clear that the offense can reach incredible heights but it all starts with Sarkisian's schematic approach pressing forward, starting this week against the Dolphins.
Task #3: Focus On The Ball
That is the amount of turnovers that the defense has snagged through the team's first four games of the season. To put it in perspective, the teams placed in the top four in takeaways this season (Jacksonville, Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo) each have at least 10 takeaways and are either in first place or second place within their respective division.
Interestingly, the two turnovers forced by the Falcons this season have wound up in the hands of corner Desmond Trufant. While he is arguably the best player on defense, he can not do it alone. The emphasis on the defense creating turnovers was placed on the forefront by head coach Dan Quinn recently and in each of the past two seasons under Quinn, the Falcons have placed 16th in the NFL in takeaways. So it has been an aspect that the team has looked to improve upon for some time now. Even with the defense making strides this season, creating turnovers deserves a great amount of attention going forward.