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Falcons snap counts: What we can glean from a messy loss to the Titans

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The issue isn’t with how many snaps players are getting, but how they’re being utilized (and playing).

Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s get into the snap counts. You’ve got nowhere else to be on a Tuesday morning, after all.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 80

Jake Matthews: 80

James Carpenter: 80

Kaleb McGary: 80

Alex Mack: 74

Austin Hooper: 66

Wes Schweitzer: 64

Mohamed Sanu: 63

Julio Jones: 63

Calvin Ridley: 60

Devonta Freeman: 50

Ito Smith: 30

Luke Stocker: 24

Jamon Brown: 16

Russell Gage: 14

Justin Hardy: 14

Keith Smith: 11

Ty Sambrailo: 9

Jaeden Graham: 2


The offense is an absolute mess right now, and the snap counts don’t necessarily tell us why. Obviously Wes Schweitzer playing 64 snaps is not ideal because of what it says about the injury picture on this offensive line, which is a big problem at this stage of the game. The Falcons lost excellent rookie Chris Lindstrom, have dealt with on-again, off-again injuries to replacement Jamon Brown, and haven’t been able to settle on a five man line for very long. Schweitzer keeps earning himself more money next year by playing decently at guard and center at this point, but it’s not great when he’s continually having to fill in.

Otherwise there are no great, obvious insights to be gleaned purely from the counts. The problems all arise from two interlocking issues. The first is Dirk Koetter’s offense, which has mixed some stellar stretches with a lot of dull, predictable playcalling that has proven costly for this team. The Falcons simply are not getting guys open often enough, they’re running the ball when they shouldn’t, and when they absolutely need short yardage, they’re running it up the gut with Devonta Freeman and leaving no doubt that that’s the plan. That simply isn’t going to work with the offensive line and the larger offense struggling like it is.

The second piece is execution. Koetter’s not exactly putting his stars in great positions to succeed, but he’s not making Freeman dance when he has an opening, he’s certainly not making Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley drop gimme balls, and he’s not able to make Matt Ryan stop sailing throws, something he’s done far too often thus far in 2019. It doesn’t matter who is out there and how much of the game they play if they don’t play well and they’re not being put in positions to succeed. Unfortunately for the Falcons, little will change until that changes.

Also, Brian Hill didn’t get a single carry. Boo!

Defense

Desmond Trufant: 64

Ricardo Allen: 64

Isaiah Oliver: 64

Deion Jones: 59

De’Vondre Campbell: 58

Grady Jarrett: 54

Vic Beasley: 54

Takk McKinley: 52

Tyeler Davison: 47

Allen Bailey: 47

Kemal Ishmael: 40

Damontae Kazee: 31

Jack Crawford: 19

Adrian Clayborn: 17

John Comsinky: 13

Kendall Sheffield: 10

Foye Oluokun: 10

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 1


Snap counts tell more of the story on defense, however. The Falcons made moves that were an eerie echo of 2014 along their defensive front, seeking to beef up and stop the run. After Dalvin Cook murdered them in the first week of the season, they’ve quietly clamped down a bit, holding the Eagles and Colts relatively in check and limiting the chunk yardage for Derrick Henry this week. The problem, of course, is that the run defense is not the problem.

This is not to say, minus Davison’s excruciating penalty issues, that either signing was bad. Davison came cheaply and has played very well, while Bailey was reasonably priced and has also played well in his role thus far. The issue is that this is still a pass-first league, and in that regard the Falcons don’t really look any better than they did a year ago. They may actually be worse.

That’s a multi-tiered problem, too. Dan Quinn’s defense is not inherently all that complex, but it does require excellent awareness, coverage, and tackling to function well, given that he loves giving opposing receivers cushion. When you’re willing to let offenses pick up short gains more or less at will, you have to be able to either sack the quarterback (which, despite Takk McKinley’s very best efforts, the defense has not been able to do), close quickly and make a play on the ball (which the Falcons have largely failed to do), or make open field tackles to limit the damage (which the Falcons have been hilariously bad at). With a typically up-and-down pass rush, coverage lapses happening left and right, and piling up missed tackles, the Falcons would be in trouble even if they weren’t picking up penalties. The scheme isn’t doing anyone any favors, but execution is a massive problem here.

The Falcons just don’t have anyone to ride to the rescue at the moment. Kendall Sheffield isn’t ready to slot in for Isaiah Oliver if he keeps struggling. John Cominsky has promise but is not going to add punch to the pass rush, which at least has been getting close and impacting throws. And frankly if guys like Desmond Trufant, Deion Jones, and others who have been here for years can’t make the plays they’re supposed to make, this thing is going to continue to fall apart. Players need to play better, and Dan Quinn needs to consider putting them in a better position to succeed before he’s, um, a free agent.

Special Teams

Russell Gage: 20

Kendall Sheffield: 20

Duke Riley: 20

Sharrod Neasman: 20

Foye Oluokun: 16

Jermaine Grace: 15

Jaeden Graham: 15

Brian Hill: 13

Luke Stocker; 11

Justin Hardy: 10

Matt Bosher: 9

Matt Bryant: 3


Special teams should be the least objectionable unit on this list, and somehow they’re not.

The good news was that generally speaking, the loss of Kenjon Barner did not doom the Falcons. Kendall Sheffield got two kickoffs and averaged a respectable 21 yards per return against three touchbacks, while Mohamed Sanu’s sole punt return was blown up immediately for two yards. Not ideal at all—and field position did not go Atlanta’s way—but hardly their largest problem. It’ll still be nice to get Barner back next week.

The larger concerns are with Matt Bosher and Matt Bryant. Bosher had one big-legged Bosher punt and two short ones. He may still be working through the effects of his injury, but it’s a concern because two of those punts set the Titans up with excellent field position.

Matt Bryant is, unfortunately, also a concern. The panicked way the Falcons handled his re-signing after planning for his departure worried me a bit, but all figured to be well if Bryant kicked well. To this point in 2019, he’s hit just three of his five kicks, and he missed a 32 yard chip shot in this one that the Matt Bryant of yore would have nailed without a single bead of sweat forming. The idea of Bryant finally hitting his decline phase after the Falcons just gave him more money to come back than they would have owed if they had simply kept him is going to keep me up at night, though to be fair it’s early yet and Bryant has had just five kicks.

This team is a mess, in other words.