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These aren’t the Falcons you were looking for

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Next year’s Falcons, fully healthy and prepared, should be better.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints The Advertiser-USA TODAY NETWORK

Look, I get it. It’s bad right now. You don’t want to hear about being thankful for Dan Quinn or overjoyed for Julio Jones. That’s fair.

Any optimism from that Washington win for the Atlanta Falcons dissipated into the air like last summer’s bubbles, and miserable days are here again. Ah, yes, that miserable feeling of doom and gloom that seeps in right when you know a Falconing is near. Oh, how I cherish it.

Thanksgiving turned into bloodletting as the Falcons blew out the gasket on 2018 once and for all, belly flopping badly on national television. The 2018 Falcons are poke-it-with-a-stick dead. Our enemy took group selfies on our grave. The sweet release of death groweth near.

There is no hope for now. There is no reason to keep bringing up the playoffs. There is no reason to keep waiting for that imaginary run to finally kick in. It’s all but a dream now, as rancid reality creeps in to suck up whatever juice is left in the juice box. Nothing matters with this team anymore. They might as well call the season and rest up for next year.

But with this season will go the 2018 Falcons. May this lead-blowing zombie with tackling deficiencies be double-tapped by Simon Pegg, those poor saps from The Walking Dead and groovy Bruce Campbell. Please don’t stop me now. I’m having a good time; I’m having a ball.

But in the adjusted words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, these aren’t the Falcons you’re looking for.

Fake Falcons

When the season went south almost immediately with injuries to Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, it was easy to say what this team was going to struggle with.

But I don’t know who this team is. I don’t know who these linebackers are, who this secondary is, who this pass rush is, what this running game is, what this offensive line is, who is doing the situational coaching, who is scheming what at the most inopportune times. And if this goes the way it inevitably will, I won’t know them for long. You won’t, either.

Whatever you hate about the 2018 Falcons was never going to last. You’re fretting over duct tape. This is a billion-dollar sports franchise run by proven professionals who are well-aware that the product on the field right now isn’t anywhere good enough for where expectations are for a franchise with all the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run. Don’t kid yourself to think they aren’t aware of this.

The 2019 offseason is going to wash a lot of this away. I promise you that, or my name isn’t Cory Woodroof, and my hips don’t mess up when I finally get comfortable at the movie theater in those fancy recliner seats because the controls are right by where I sit down.

The key guys missing (Debo, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Devonta Freeman, Brandon Fusco) will heal up and return. The parts of the roster that aren’t working will get amended. The younger guys will take this experience and run with it. New draft and free agent faces will book trips to Flowery Branch.

The team will finally have to address Dan Quinn’s (who I love and will always support) crunch-time flubs, which may mean we’ll see a new face or two to assist him with things. We may see a change here or there to address parts of the staff that need to be strengthened, and that will be welcome.

Stuff is going to be kind of different, guys will return and we’ll see a different team. What we almost saw in 2018 was going to be pretty darn good, I think.

Seeing Spring Finally Sprout

What we’ve all forgotten about 2018 is that the team’s offseason was set to begin solving the problems of 2017. They got Steve Sarkisian the help he needed in Greg Knapp, Calvin Ridley and Logan Paulsen to aid a lot of what ailed the offense that season. Knapp helped with game planning, Ridley solved the passing problems by adding another dynamic element to the team, Paulsen gave them a reliable second tight end and helped fix some of the blocking problems. The offense has been, overall, very good, save for the last few weeks, when everything has been awful.

Or how about the special teams? The down-field coverage and ability to play good defense on returns and punts has largely been corrected with better gunners and tackling. Sure, the actual Falcons returning is a bit lackluster, but field position hasn’t really been something to worry about. Even when they’re deep, they pull themselves out, a major issue from 2017.

On defense, they really didn’t have a ton of problems sans the defensive line, which has turned out to be a liability. See the addition of Deadrin Senat and growth of Jack Crawford to pair with Grady Jarrett. The team didn’t realize losing Adrian Clayborn would be so dangerous, or that Vic Beasley would fall off such a deep cliff when fully healthy. The linebacking group and secondary was set...until the three most important players in those groups were lost for the year, causing other guys to fall back into old habits and regress. Heck, the Falcons have the league-leading interception artist in-house, and it still feels bad.

The offensive line added Fusco to help out at right guard, but you can’t foresee him and Andy Levitre both being gonzo by Halloween. How about Jake Matthews stepping away from old problems to become one of the best left tackles in the league? 2017 problem, 2018 solution.

The Falcons had what looked and mostly still looks like a strong offseason cascade into the fiery pits of Football Hell, which is hard for any franchise to overcome. We can’t see past the disaster zone to see where things they did actually worked, which is what they did in 2016 to fix that 2015 team. Say what you will about Quinn if you don’t like him, but the guy is a master at cleaning up problems. Nobody can deny him that. He won a playoff game a year removed from 28-3.

Right now, things are bad, indeed. Take all your anger out on whatever, take your shots at this dumb Falcoholic if it makes you feel better. This team you hate won’t be the team you see next year. It’ll be knocks on wood much healthier and complete, probably with a top-15 draft pick in tow, having learned the lessons of 2018 and then some.

Success over the horizon

I don’t think we realize how close Atlanta is to being its old self with the guys and knowledge they have in-house. They’re about to overcompensate for unavoidable issues, and that could really create a ticked-off 2019 juggernaut with a third-place schedule if all goes well.

Do you really think we’re going to have the same tackling and communication issues on defense when the All-Pros return? Do you really think DQ is going to continue to make the same in-game mistakes, now that his seat may be hot heading into next year? Do you really think the team will stand pat with the struggles on the OL? Do you really think the run game won’t be as effective once Freeman is back?

I can’t promise complete and total success for 2019 and beyond, but I can be reasonable and say they’ll be much better next fall by default. The storm of injuries and frankly ineptitude we’ve seen this year are as difficult to repeat as perfect health, and thankfully we won’t have these 2018 Falcons to kick around much longer.