Boy howdy, do the Dirty Birds look good right now. Real, real good. But remember when they looked bad last week?
What on Earth am I supposed to feel right now?
Well, you feel that inescapable pang of preseason, when the dreamlike euphoria of watching Matt Ryan and crew drive down with ease without Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman on a decent-enough Kansas City Chiefs defense collides with the sight of watching a Deion Jones-less Falcons defense trounce an Andy Reid/dual-threat QB attack.
If this is what the Falcons can do without three of their best players, what are the capable of when those guys get back?
The responsible prognosticator would tell you to bump the brakes a bit on thinking this is the end-all-be-all version of what Atlanta will look like, just as the irresponsible rabble-rouser will dance around the room to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” while decorating in advance for a Super Bowl party. The truth is, you find the balance, you find the proper excitement.
An Offense on the Rise
No, Friday’s promising performance doesn’t foretell postseason glory, but it does hint that, indeed, this offense has evolved from what it was in 2017, and that Steve Sarkisian is beginning to get more creative with his play calling.
It shows that Austin Hooper and Eric Saubert are both beginning to grow into respective roles and that Atlanta might finally have a tight end tandem to lean on with talent alone. It shows that Brandon Fusco might have been the missing link to a cohesive offensive line. It shows that the addition of Calvin Ridley and the maturation of Marvin Hall might give this receiving core its 2016 depth once more.
It shows an offense that can drive the ball, be witty when they need to be and score points.
If they can do this consistently every week, you’re right to get giddy. Once Julio and Devonta get back, this might be the most talented personnel group they’ve fielded.
A swarming Falcons defense
Don’t forget that defense, which stomped down on rookie Patrick Mahomes and the dangerous bevy of weapons Kansas City has at their disposal.
The interior defensive line in particular looked mighty fine, with Grady Jarrett, Terrell McClain, Deadrin Senat and Jack Crawford all showing real talent. After all the hand-wringing over the defensive tackle group in the spring, the team might’ve just done the trick to patch up the loss of Dontari Poe. McClain looks comfortable in the 4-3 front, just as Senat is already showing real power. He looks to be no friend of opposing centers.
Safety Damontae Kazee continued his madcap preseason explosion with a pick, and cornerback Brian Poole looked like a heat-seeking missile with his tackling and play diagnosis. Both of those guys began to lose momentum for their role with the team once Isaiah Oliver came town and it became apparent the team was to extend Ricardo Allen. Both secondary players will have defined roles this season; Poole the slot man and sure tackler, Kazee the dangerous third safety.
Heck, even put-upon LB Duke Riley looked like he was beginning to come into his own at times. Once Jones is back to man his spot, look for Riley’s play to continue to trend up. We certainly hope so, anyways.
So, you know, get excited and stuff, people.
The Falcons put the Jets performance behind them to really drive home the idea they’re meant for more in the NFC this season. They’ve got a ridiculously talented bunch of Birds this year, and if the offensive coaching can take the uptick, this might be the most complete Falcons team in forever, ever (forever ever, forever ever?).
But don’t let this make you think they’re totally ironed out for September. Next week’s bout with the Jacksonville Jaguars will be a test of tests, their defense one of the most ferocious in football. If the Falcons regress a bit, it’ll create some worry. But let that be a lesson. Preseason is no time to crown kings or size rings; it’s expected to be an up-and-down experience where no one is actually trying to get the win.
Though, for this up, the Falcons looked quite, quite up, the kind of up that sticks.