Injuries are a part of the game, and teams have to live by that “next man up” principle. If someone goes down, even a star player, other guys have to step up and adapt. But there are some players on the Falcons roster whose absence would be difficult to overcome.
We borrowed this idea from our friends over at Blogging the Boys, SB Nation’s Dallas Cowboys blog. If the Falcons roster were a game of Jenga, these are the five players the team couldn’t remove without everything falling into shambles.
Duh. Last year’s MVP and Offensive Player of the Year is the key to the team’s offensive success. With the arrival of Steve Sarkisian and an expected shift to Ryan taking more control over the offense, his presence will be even more vital to the team this season.
Ryan has always been good. Last season, he took a big step forward into the territory of being great. Matt Schaub is actually one of the more experienced backups in the league, and he knows the system well, but he wouldn’t be able to function at or near Ryan’s level if he were called into action.
The thing about Jones is that he’s a problem for defenses whether he’s Ryan’s intended receiver or not. When you’re up against a player who can do this, you have to account for him at all times.
Having Jones on the field doesn’t just give the offense arguably the best receiver in the league out there to make plays. It also creates opportunities for the rest of the receivers, because he’s going to draw double — and sometimes triple — teams. The Falcons need him on the field.
He didn’t make NFL Network’s NFL Top 100 list, and I”m still salty about it, because Alex Mack is a huge part of the reason the Falcons went from 8-8 to 11-5 and a Super Bowl bid in such a short span.
Mack isn’t just holding down the center position. The stability he brings in the middle elevates guard play and makes life easier on the tackles, too. Remember what it was like when Mike Person played center in 2015? Yeah, me too. Please don’t ever get hurt again, Alex Mack.
He led the league in sacks last year, and while the Falcons’ pass rush was generally improved, it was largely because of Beasley. If you want to win games, you have to be able to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, and Beasley has figured out how to get that done.
The pass rush should be even more formidable next season with the addition of Takk McKinley, but the team needs Beasley on the field, also.
Look, I considered popping Desmond Trufant in here. The only problem is that Trufant went down with that shoulder injury last season, and the team had sufficient depth to make it to the Super Bowl.
And the Falcons may have built enough depth at linebacker to ride out an injury to second-year star Deion Jones, but he’s just so dang good. He’s fast, he’s athletic, he picked up the nuances of the middle linebacker spot so well and quickly, and he should be even better in Year 2. The Falcons would miss him terribly.
Which players do you think are the key pieces whose absence would make the whole season fall apart?