With excellence comes expectation. The Falcons of 2017 were a solid enough team with an above average passing attack, but compared to their legendary 2016, they looked like absolute garbage. That ensured that we were all plenty disappointed by what the offense did a year ago.
Fast forward to 2018, and we head into the upcoming season with expectations that are necessarily higher. As my esteemed colleague Charles McDonald noted the other day, anything short of an elite passing attack for this Falcons team is going to be a true disappointment.
Why? I’ll tell you why.
- Steve Sarkisian was a rookie coordinator in 2017, and he made a lot of rookie mistakes. It is unreasonable to think he’s suddenly going to morph into one of the NFL’s best play callers, but it’s not at all unreasonable to think he’s going to improve.
- The Falcons return an offense that features the 2016 MVP at quarterback, two of the better young running backs in the NFL, a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver, nice complementary options at receiver and tight end, and a strong offensive line on paper.
- The Falcons added an upgrade, however slight, at right guard. They also added a dynamic, fast, refined young wide receiver in Calvin Ridley and a potentially dangerous third running back in Ito Smith. Heck, even rookie Russell Gage is fast enough to make a couple of big plays in 2018.
There are weaknesses here—guard play still doesn’t look like it’ll be elite—but overall this offense looks improved and should be improved. With the number of options Matt Ryan has to throw to, this really should be one of the five best passing attacks in the entire NFL.
That’s why I say in the headline of this piece that the team needs to have an elite passing game. Their defense and special teams and ground game may well help to carry this team in 2018, but if they really harbor Super Bowl aspirations, it’s likely the passing game will be the major reason they’re headed there.