With the game firmly in our rearview and a little time before we pivot to hating the Saints in earnest for the rest of the week, it’s time to look at whose stock is up and whose stock is down heading into Week 3. We think the names this week are pretty obvious.
QB Matt Ryan
He had the quintessential Matt Ryan bounceback game, one designed to erase any doubt about his fitness for the office of quarterback. Aside from three bad throws, he was accurate, he moved well in the pocket, and he was an absolute scoring machine through the air and on the ground. The fact that he did so against a tough Carolina front is awfully encouraging, because he’s going to get a break from rough defensive lines over the coming weeks, by and large.
RB Ito Smith
Smith had a very quiet, borderline useless preseason, but preseason doesn’t mean much. Smith proved that by turning 18 snaps into a quality day where he piled up over 50 total yards, showed shiftiness and power, and proved to be an excellent complement to Tevin Coleman. Brian Hill didn’t even see the field, so I’d expect Smith to keep getting a nice workload with Devonta Freeman out.
WR Calvin Ridley
After a dismal first week, Ridley was a monster. He finished with four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, displaying his obvious physical talent and tremendous route running on the touchdown grab, in particular. He’s going to be the #2 receiver here for all intents and purposes, and Sunday was probably just the start of what we all hope will be a fine career in Atlanta.
G Wes Schweitzer
Schweitzer has barely played left guard, and to my recollection never has taken a regular season snap there. So it was beyond encouraging to see him step in on a day where the rest of the offensive line was terrific and hold his own, especially against Carolina’s stout interior defensive line. Schweitzer will head back to the bench the second Andy Levitre’s healthy, but this was a good audition for him to replace Levitre in 2019, and a strong case for being the first guard up at either spot if an injury happens again.
LB De’Vondre Campbell
Campbell led the team in tackles, but that’s not really indicative of the fine work he does. He’s quality in coverage, he’s probably the team’s best Cam Newton spy with Deion Jones out because of his physicality and aggressive play, and he’s the most sure-tackling, impactful linebacker on the field at the moment by a wide margin. The Falcons will continue leaning on him heavily as Duke Riley and Foye Oluokun get up to speed.
S Ricardo Allen
Allen’s value doesn’t typically show up on the stat sheet, but happily his interception off a tipped Cam Newton pass was a highlight-worthy play. He also made a couple of key open field tackles against Carolina, and remains a critical safety net for a defense that needs on right now.
WR Mohamed Sanu
Through two weeks, Sanu has six receptions for 37 yards, or about 6.2 yards per reception. The Falcons will continue to use him because he’s a potent blocker and a reliable short-to-midrange option, but it’s telling that Julio Jones dominated targets in Week 1, Julio and Calvin Ridley split them in Week 2, and Sanu has been largely left in the dust both weeks. There are big weeks ahead for him, but they’re likely to be few and far between, and his role in the passing game is only going to diminish if Austin Hooper and Ridley keep coming on.
G Andy Levitre
Levitre plays well when he’s healthy, but health is becoming an increasing concern. He missed games at the end of last year, exited in the playoffs, and then exited the second game of the season. We’re waiting for an update on his health, but you might want to get used to seeing Wes Schweitzer or Ben Garland at left guard this year.
DE Vic Beasley
We covered this earlier this morning, but Beasley’s just not having much of an impact at the moment. The former first rounder isn’t getting many pressures, has had some open field tackling adventures in the first two weeks, and is rarely an above average run defender. He always has the talent to come on and make that impact, but until he does the Falcons are going to continue to have intermittent success rushing the passer.
LB Duke Riley
We’re not going to beat up poor Duke much longer. The Falcons will see what positives they can find from his performance as the starting middle linebacker, but there were plenty of miscues, including bad angles and missed tackles along the way. Riley may just need some time to acclimate to the position and the number of snaps he received, and we’re certainly willing to grant him that. The question is whether the Falcons will.
S Jordan Richards
Like Riley, Richards was thrust into a prominent role and found wanting. He’s solid in run support and has value as a special teamer, but middling instincts in coverage and worse angles than a four-year old’s crayon drawing of a triangle are a problem, and Richards showed us plenty of those against the Panthers. Kazee will be right back into a starting role if he’s not suspended, with Richards potentially mixing in at times on obvious run downs.
Who makes your list?