Is the passing game diminished?
This is the biggest question of all, for so many reasons. The Falcons haven’t quite been slinging the ball around like peak 2016 thus far in 2017, for reasons that range to “bad bounces off wide receivers’ hands” to “a multi-week injury to Ryan Schraeder” to “why would you throw that, dear Matt Ryan?”
Together with a tough first four games against three capable defenses, plus this being Steve Sarkisian’s first year as offensive coordinator, has conspired to make the passing attack look closer to its promising but wobbly 2015 version than the world-destroying Super Bowl squad of last year. When you consider all the bad bounces, injuries, and uncharacteristic shakiness we’ve seen through four weeks, I think it’s more than fair to expect better things from the passing attack going forward. Time will, as it always does, tell.
Can Brooks Reed keep it up?
I don’t want to make a huge, huge deal out of what Brooks Reed is doing, because three sacks in four games is very good but not necessarily game-changing. The more impressive piece is that Reed is getting pressure at a better clip than he has in years past, and that plus a healthy Adrian Clayborn and gifted rookie Takk McKinley has done wonders for the pass rush in the early going.
Reed, of course, has never posted more than 6.5 sacks in a single season, and the fact that he’s basically halfway there after four games probably tells you this is an unsustainable pace. If this is Reed heading for a career season, though, this defensive line certainly has enough talent to be one of the NFC’s better groupings.
When will Vic Beasley be back in action?
Hey, two questions pertaining to the pass rush! Alright!
Beasley was off to another fine start in 2017 before going down with an injury, and he remains the team’s best pass rusher of the moment if he’s healthy. The question is how soon he’ll be back on the field, and how quickly he’ll be fully healthy. Those two questions are not quite the same.
Beasley is very likely to be back against the New England Patriots in Week 7, per literally everything we’ve heard from the team since he got hurt. I’d wager that he’ll play only 20-25 snaps that first week, though, and that the Falcons will ease him in to avoid any setbacks. The sooner he’s back healthy, the better this defense should fare against teams like the Patriots who are showing vulnerability to quality pass rushes, but I’m betting it’ll be Week 9 or 10 before Beasley is going out there with zero limitations.
What questions do you need the Falcons to answer?