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Falcons snap counts for a lopsided win over the Cardinals

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The Falcons continue to mix and match, especially on offense, and that’s something worth taking a closer look at.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Well, that was fun.

There wasn’t much to celebrate about the Falcons’ win over the Cardinals aside from just being a fan and enjoying a thumping, and we did that. But did the Falcons do anything different with playing time that sparked that big win, or was it just Atlanta being at least four times as good as Arizona?

Let’s take a look at the snap counts and see what they can tell us.

Offense

Ty Sambrailo: 67

Wes Schweitzer: 67

Matt Ryan: 64

Jake Matthews: 64

Alex Mack: 64

Mohamed Sanu: 60

Calvin Ridley: 44

Zane Beadles: 42

Austin Hooper: 34

Tevin Coleman: 34

Ben Garland: 32

Julio Jones: 32

Eric Saubert: 30

Ito Smith: 29

Russell Gage: 20

Marvin Hall: 18

Logan Paulsen: 15

Justin Hardy: 10

Brian Hill: 5

Ryan Schraeder: 3

Matt Schaub: 3


Your eyes did not deceive you, the Falcons really did make an effort to get different guys on the field. The team mixed and matched Ben Garland and Zane Beadles at right guard, perhaps to try to help them determine which one they’d like to bring back as a reserve in 2019. They gave 20 snaps to Russell Gage, who committed a couple of obnoxious penalties but also continued to look pretty good as a receiver in limited opportunities. And they got Eric Saubert in there quite a bit and were rewarded by a couple of huge blocks on Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith’s best runs. It wasn’t all roses, but the stakes were low and the decision to prioritize a longer look at certain players indicated the Falcons are planning for next year, which is a major key.

The Falcons are going to make at least one major addition along the offensive line next year, I’d wager, but they’re also going to have Brandon Fusco, Wes Schweitzer, Ryan Schraeder and Sean Harlow under contract with Zane Beadles, Ben Garland and Ty Sambrailo a phone call away. It’ll be important for them to decide who they want around competing for starting gigs and backup spots there, as upgrading at left guard and perhaps right tackle could help this team a great deal.

And then there’s the importance of deciding whether Gage and Marvin Hall can step in behind Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and (maybe) Mohamed Sanu, or whether Eric Saubert is the long-term backup to Austin Hooper, and whether Ito Smith is the guy behind Devonta Freeman with Tevin Coleman likely to walk in free agency. The team could stick its head in the sand over the final few games and pretend those decisions weren’t looming, but to their credit, they haven’t done so. We’ll see if they continue to mix and match against Carolina and Tampa Bay as they close this one out.

Defense

Damontae Kazee: 69

Desmond Trufant: 69

Brian Poole: 55

Jack Crawford: 50

Deion Jones: 49

Grady Jarrett: 48

Robert Alford: 48

Takk McKinley: 44

Sharrod Neasman: 43

Vic Beasley: 42

De’Vondre Campbell: 38

Foye Oluokun: 37

Brooks Reed: 30

Bruce Irvin: 29

Deadrin Senat: 25

Isaiah Oliver: 23

Steven Means: 23

Jordan Richards: 18

Duke Riley: 15

Kemal Ishmael: 3

Bruce Carter: 1


Similar results here. The Falcons gave Isaiah Oliver snap at cornerback and he once again played just fine, though Robert Alford continues to grab the lion’s share of snaps. Alford more or may not be here next year, but the Falcons need the longer look at Oliver either way, as he should play a major role in 2019. The team also wanted a longer look at Steven Means, the in-season pickup who has previously shown preseason value as a pass rusher, and they saw him do some solid work as an interior pass rusher. With a contract decision looming for Brooks Reed and the disappointing, injured Derrick Shelby experiment over, Means seems likely to re-join Atlanta in 2019.

Otherwise, there are decisions to be made about this team’s linebacker corps in a possible post-Campbell world, and consideration to be given to keeping Bruce Irvin in his hometown, where he appears genuinely thrilled to be. The Falcons will have plenty of cap space and the ability to free up a lot more, and you can’t help but feel that Irvin/Means could hang around. If Campbell does walk, the Falcons need to know if there’s any reason to think Riley has grown or if they need to once again invest draft capital in linebacker to help out Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun.

The Falcons also have a decision to make about Beasley, who shouldn’t be back at $12.8 million in 2019, and need to see some growth out of Takk, who stalled after a mighty start to the year. Beasley’s at least making his case late in the year.

Special Teams

Eric Saubert: 30

Kemal Ishmael: 27

Duke Riley: 26

Justin Bethel: 26

Bruce Carter: 24

Russell Gage: 24

Sharrod Neasman: 22

Matt Bosher: 21

Brian Hill: 17

Logan Paulsen: 15

Jon Condo: 13

Marvin Hall: 13


The Falcons may be without Justin Bethel, Kemal Ishmael, Bruce Carter and Sharrod Neasman next year, but it’s clear that Keith Armstrong will still have players he likes. Saubert has become one of the team’s most trusted special teamers alongside Riley and Gage, and the trio figure to be significant pieces for this special teams unit in 2019. Given that Saubert has grown into that, Gage was drafted in part because of his special teams value, and Riley barely played teams earlier in the year, these are all positive developments.

This team isn’t going to live or die with special teams—their ST-focused offseason makes it clear the value of that only goes so far—but happily they’ve come across players who appear able to contribute on their respective units and still provide value here. It’s a small positive, but a positive nonetheless.