Bear with me folks, and prepare yourself for a flashback that might sting.
Dating back to 2016, it was fair to say our Super Bowl team was carried by our Kyle Shanahan-led offense. I mean, for crying out loud, our defense was horrendous in the Super Bowl, led by Richard Smith, yet, there was a ton of potential in that group. We’ll carry some of that loss with us forever.
Days later, Marquand Manuel took over and transformed our defense into the group that Dan Quinn considers part of his “Brotherhood.” At the time, we were bailed out by our offense, time and time again, but this past season, we received a glimpse that things were progressively changing.
The Falcons defense began to prove its independence and showed sparks of elite, young talent. Although not as productive as it was in the Shanahan era, the offense largely held its ground as Shanahan left for San Francisco. Steve Sarkisian took over, and the team made the playoffs and won a game again. The criticism of Sark was legitimate—and a handful of games were truly poor—but this was still a good unit.
Unlike many, I doubt Sarkisian repeats a poorly-called, error-filled rookie season. Julio Jones is bound for more quality targets and red-zone targets, and our running backs can now flourish behind what could legitimately be a top five offensive line. If you know me, you know that I believe that in a successful team, it is immensely important to be well-rounded. Now, the Falcons are arguably the most well rounded team in the league, where there are spectacular talents on both sides of the ball and very few, if any weaknesses.
Also, I am convinced that Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff are fully prepared for anything that comes their way. Our offense got better with the addition of Brandon Fusco, we gained electricity in first round draft pick Calvin Ridley, and as far as our defense goes, I consider it nothing less than elite. That’s a word we’ve wanted to use since the D-Block days, though it’s never been applicable until (hopefully) now.
Something not many people think about when it comes to the team’s success is special teams, and according to recent reports from plugged-in reporters like the team’s William McFadden and of course special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, our special teams unit is remarkable. With the additions of guys like Justin Bethel and Russell Gage, among other talented athletes, I have no fear that our special teams unit will thrive, with an improved return game and improved gunners. As early as it is, undrafted free agent Emmanuel Ellerbe apparently looks like he’ll make the 53 man roster and immediately produce on that special teams. Ellerbe fits a “fast and physical” approach beautifully, not to mention his spectacular pre-draft, 42-inch vertical leap. Assuming Ellerbe makes the team, he should be a principle addition to a unit that is already considered deadly.
Now, I know this is very jumbled, but if you put it together, what I am trying to say is that this team is bound to prosper this year. An aggressive coaching staff led by Dan Quinn on top of a stacked team with very few holes in the armor is something very rare in today’s game. Today’s Atlanta Falcons team draws rare comparisons to the 1989 Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers team. Steve Young (Matt Ryan in context) at quarterback with two studs at wide receiver (Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu - Calvin Ridley) and two studs at running back (Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman). They had Ronnie Lott in the secondary (Keanu Neal - Ricardo Allen) with Charles Haley rushing the edge (Vic Beasley - Takk McKinley). That team went 14-2, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the Falcons can repeat history, no matter how talented the NFC may be.
I really hope that we have finally discovered an established system on both sides of the ball, because that’s how the Eagles won the Super Bowl last year. I’d like to believe that Sarkisian understands his playmakers and how to use them, because that will be essential for a successful season. If the pieces click together—and I think they will—it’s Super Bowl time.
Falcons fans, I’m ready. Are you?