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Falcons snap counts for a dominant Week 9 win over Washington

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Atlanta’s settled into a groove, and their performance and snap counts indicate that’s a good thing.

Atlanta Falcons v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the things I like to do after every game, win or lose, is look at how the Falcons divvied up their snaps. For much of the first part of the year, there were wild swings in playing time from week to week as Atlanta struggled to settle on their best lineup.

The good news is that those days appear to be over for the moment. The Falcons have lost both starting guards on offense but had capable options waiting in the wings, and they otherwise have a steady groove going with their running back and receiver snaps. On defense, the Falcons have left behind the days of Duke Riley and Jordan Richards starting and playing full-time roles, and that plus the return of Grady Jarrett and Derrick Shelby has greatly improved this defense’s performance, albeit against two offenses with legitimate problems.

Knowing who you want to put out on the field and roughly what you can expect from them is a very big deal, particularly when you’re down six-plus starters in a given week. Atlanta’s done a great—and frankly surprising—job of finding players who can staunch the bleeding, even if it took a couple of agonizingly close losses thanks to defensive ineptitude for them to get there. At 4-4, if they can stay reasonably healthy the rest of the way they have a legitimate shot.

Here’s your look at the snap counts.

Offense

Jake Matthews: 68

Wes Schweitzer: 68

Alex Mack: 68

Ben Garland: 68

Ryan Schraeder: 68

Matt Ryan: 68

Julio Jones: 55

Austin Hooper: 54

Calvin Ridley: 47

Mohamed Sanu: 47

Tevin Coleman: 39

Logan Paulsen: 30

Ito Smith: 28

Marvin Hall: 14

Justin Hardy: 14

Ricky Ortiz: 6

Eric Saubert: 6


The Falcons had their second-best game on the ground all year with nary a sign of Ricky Ortiz, their fullback, who played just six snaps. Instead, the Falcons got stellar blocking from their tight ends and receivers, not to mention the offensive line, and the backs did the rest. The team averaged over six yards per carry on Sunday, which is pretty amazing given their opponent.

There were few surprises in snap counts this week. The team still leaned heavily on their trio of top receivers and Austin Hooper, with Coleman getting in the neighborhood of ten more snaps than Smith and Paulsen soaking up plenty of snaps as an additional blocker. When the offense is humming like this and putting up 38 points against a darn good defense, there’s no reason to do anything weird.

Defense

Isaiah Oliver: 69

Desmond Trufant: 69

Damontae Kazee: 69

Brian Poole: 60

Foye Oluokun: 51

Vic Beasley: 50

Sharrod Neasman: 49

De’Vondre Campbell: 48

Takk McKinley: 47

Grady Jarrett: 44

Jack Crawford: 42

Terrell McClain: 26

Deadrin Senat: 46

Duke Riley: 22

Brooks Reed: 21

Jordan Richards: 19

Derrick Shelby: 19

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 13

Bruce Carter: 10

Kemal Ishmael: 3


These snap counts make clear what was already evident: The Falcons have turned to Sharrod Neasman at strong safety and Foye Oluokun at middle linebacker, with improved results for the defense. Oluokun has proven to be a fast and physical defender capable of rushing the passer, making open field tackles and defending the run well, and if he continues to play plenty of snaps he should continue to progress. The Falcons have been absurdly good and/or lucky to snag Schweitzer and Oluokun with sixth rounders in the last three drafts, as both have proven capable of at least playing passable football as starters.

Neasman has had his ups and downs but also has proven to be a sure tackler and game in coverage, though he needs refinement in the latter area, as we saw against Washington. He’s still an upgrade over Jordan Richards.

The team has also done a nice job of getting Bruce Carter and Kemal Ishmael in when they need their brand of physicality on the field, even on limited snaps.

Otherwise, the Falcons have reached the point where they feel comfortable rotating their guys along the defensive line, and they largely shut down Adrian Peterson and got solid pressure on Alex Smith all game. Isaiah Oliver played every single snap and held up pretty well, with Josh Doctson making a couple of absurd catches over him that made his day look worse than it actually was. If Alford’s out multiple weeks, what I saw Sunday was at the very least encouraging.

This wasn’t the hardest matchup for this Atlanta defense all year, but they’ve found something that appears to work, as they’ve now allowed 20 and 14 points in consecutive weeks. Let’s see if they can continue to keep the magic going against Cleveland.

Special Teams

Keith Tandy: 18

Kemal Ishmael: 17

Bruce Carter: 16

Eric Saubert: 16

Russell Gage: 16

Justin Bethel: 15

Matt Bosher: 15

Sharrod Neasman: 14

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 13

Foye Oluokun: 11

Logan Paulsen: 11

Marvin Hall: 10

Duke Riley: 10


No surprises at all here. The Falcons were missing Robert Alford, who typically plays a significant role on special teams on top of his work on defense, but held up fine in coverage thanks to some stellar plays by the likes of Justin Bethel and Russell Gage. Returns are still a very shaky part of this team’s game, but they’re not allowing backbreaking returns this year, either.