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A closer look at the Falcons’ injury luck over the last three seasons

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What can we learn from the last three years?

NFL: Preseason-Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

There’s widespread consensus at this point that the Falcons are one of the better teams in football this season. There are things that could go wrong, but with the talent and coaching staff in place, they’re going to be a feared force in the NFC. Even the most diehard Falcons haters will likely concede that they’re not taking Atlanta lightly.

The only thing that seems likely to derail the season is the specter of injury. While we can’t predict which injuries will strike and how serious they’ll be, we can certainly look back and see how the team has fared over the last few seasons and see what kind of scenarios we might be looking at, and that’s what we’ll do today.

Below, when you see a week designated, it’s the week they were placed on IR, i.e. the first week they missed.

2016

IR

Akeem King, All season

Devin Fuller, All season

DeMarcus Van Dyke, All season

Chris Mayes, Week 4

Tyler Starr, Week 4

Sean Weatherspoon, Week 5

Derrick Shelby, Week 7

Jacob Tamme, Week 9

Desmond Trufant, Week 10

Kemal Ishmael, Week 12

Adrian Clayborn, Week 16

Notable Injuries

De’Vondre Campbell, 4 weeks

Tevin Coleman, 2 weeks

Paul Worrilow, 3 weeks

Austin Hooper, 2 weeks

Keanu Neal, 2 weeks


It’s actually sort of remarkable that the Falcons were so good in 2016. They lost a useful linebacker early, a starting defensive end before the halfway mark, their starting tight end the week after that, their star cornerback the week after that, and then a core special teamer and third safety. Clayborn’s injury robbed them of another useful defensive end, and Alex Mack and others went into the Super Bowl pretty damn banged up.

Those aren’t crippling injuries, perhaps, but they are significant ones. It’s another reason to feel good about this Falcons team in 2017, as if you need another one.

2015

IR

Jon Asamoah, All season

Collin Mooney, All season

Travis Howard, All season

Devin Hester, until Week 12

Matt Bryant, Week 13

James Stone, Week 15

William Moore, Week 15

Leonard Hankerson, Weird times

PUP

Lamar Holmes, All season

Notable Injuries

Brooks Reed, 3 weeks

Tevin Coleman, 4 weeks

Leonard Hankerson, 2 weeks

William Moore, 2 weeks

Justin Durant, 3 weeks


It’s striking how much weaker the roster was in 2015, isn’t it? A lot of names on this list simply aren’t with the team any longer, and aside from the injuries to Jon Asamoah, William Moore, and Matt Bryant, the Falcons weren’t out any vital players in 2015 for significant spans. They simply weren’t as good, and Dan Quinn was a rookie head coach. If the Falcons make it through 2017 with this kind of injury luck, they’ll be a juggernaut.

2014

IR

Sean Weatherspoon, All season

Sam Baker, All season

Mike Johnson, All season

Marquis Spruill, All season

Joe Hawley, Week 5

Lamar Holmes, Week 5

Peter Konz, Week 8

Robert Alford, Week 16

PUP

Zeke Motta, All season

Drew Davis, until Week 11

Notable Injuries

Robert Alford, 4 weeks


Moving on from Mike Smith was the right move for this franchise, as much as it pained me at the time and continues to make me sad today. Smitty was a great guy and a good coach, but the roster was in increasingly rough shape and there was no guarantee he’d get them out of their tailspin.

However, it’s impossible to deny that the 2014 season was sabotaged by an unreal run of injury luck for the offensive line, the sort of doomsday scenario the Falcons will hope to avoid in 2017. At one point the Falcons had five offensive linemen on injured reserve at the same time, while rookie Jake Matthews battled through injury issues of his own all season long. You simply can’t put an elite offense on the field when you’re dealing with those issues, and with Steven Jackson at running back, the Falcons simply didn’t have it. They suffered other injuries and simply weren’t as good as they needed to be, but I’ll go ahead and point the finger at the OL for this campaign.


Ultimately, this is instructive because it shows us how good the Falcons were in spite of significant injuries a year ago. It shows us what a relatively light injury season might look like for Atlanta, as they experienced one in 2015. And it shows us what heavy attrition to a single unit, like the offensive line, can do to a team’s psyche and ability. With that in mind, we’ll hope the injury luck skews a lot closer to 2015 than 2014 when all is said and done.