The Atlanta Falcons just finished up a disappointing season that still brought them to within one play of the NFC Championship game. As expect, the defense took some serious steps forward. We expect the offense to settle a bit, but instead it nose-dived faster than the Hindenburg.
We know who is back. The usuals: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu, and probably 3/5ths of the offensive line.
We know who you don’t want back but will get a true chance to turn things around: Steve Sarkisian. I’ll admit I’m not too mad about this decision. The offense had countless execution problems, and Sarkisian had the unenviable job of moving from college to the pros at least a month later than most coaches, replacing a play caller coming off a season that almost perfect.
Yes, I’ll be forever bitter.
The way I see it, the Falcons have a few places to upgrade.
Upgrading Right Guard
Last season showed that Wes Schweitzer was not quite ready to hold down Chris Chester’s old spot. It doesn’t help that the NFC South is full of elite defensive tackles. We can hope Schweitzer improves, or Sean Harlow is ready to go, but I suggest adding a guard in free agency. First, Andy Levitre may be in his last season with the team. I think Harlow and Schweitzer could fight for Levitre’s spot after one more year of development. Second, Andrew Norwell is one of the league’s best young guards, and the Carolina Panthers don’t have the cash and roster to keep him. The Falcons can make it work. Third, rookie guards usually have a first season like Sarkisian. Lets avoid that.
Upgrading Wide Receiver
We are nearly certain that the Falcons will not bring back Taylor Gabriel. The team didn’t properly use him, but it became clear his size will limit him if he’s not schemed correctly. An awesome player when schemed correctly, but may be more of a gadget player. The Falcons could use someone to run with Julio and Sanu with Gabriel’s explosive speed, but with better size to deal with physical coverage. I don’t have a perfect player for this spot, but there should be some interesting bargains in free agency or some in the mid rounds of the draft.
Upgrading Tight End
I still love Austin Hooper’s long-term potential, but there’s a good possibility he doesn’t turn into a stud this offseason. Also, I truly miss the three-tight end sets we used to see in 2016. That rarely happened last year. The Falcons should keep Eric Saubert, but it is definitely too early to expect him to have a big role. Add another tight end with decent blocking skills and plus pass catching, and we may be looking at a different offense. My favorite? Former Sarkisian standout Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Instant upgrade.
Derrick Coleman is fine on special teams, but dreadful on offense. It seemed foolish for the Falcons to fail to pay Patrick DiMarco just about $2 million per year, when the vet minimum is a little under $1 million. Maybe you could afford it if you didn’t pay a mediocre blocking tight end $4 million per year. Regardless, the Falcons could use a punishing blocker on goal-line situations (LIKE THAT PHILLY GAME), and maybe one with some play making ability.
I think I’ve covered the possible upgrades to the offense, other than sending Sarkisian to the connector at rush hour so he’s never seen again. If I missed anything, let me know in the comments.