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Falcons snap counts: Changes, however small, in a fifth straight loss

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The defensive personnel got a little bit of a shakeup for once.

NFL: OCT 13 Falcons at Cardinals Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Your Falcons snap counts tell a somewhat interesting story this week, for a change. Skip to the defense if you’re interested in seeing what changes the Falcons made.

Offense

Jake Matthews: 55

Jamon Brown: 55

Kaleb McGary: 55

Alex Mack: 54

Austin Hooper: 50

Mohamed Sanu: 47

Matt Ryan: 46

Julio Jones: 41

Calvin Ridley: 36

James Carpenter: 34

Devonta Freeman: 31

Wes Schweitzer: 22

Brian Hill: 17

Luke Stocker: 14

Russell Gage: 11

Keith Smith: 10

Justin Hardy: 10

Matt Schaub: 9

Kenjon Barner: 4

Ito Smith: 3

Jaeden Graham: 1


Injuries, ejections, and a little bit of old fashioned need forced the Falcons to incorporate new faces into the offense this week, albeit only a little bit. The most noteworthy thing was Matt Schaub slinging it against the Rams disinterested backups at the end of the game, given that it was a warmup for a potential Week 8 tilt against the Seahawks for him. It all depends on whether Matt Ryan can get healthy.

The ground game was useless against a stout Rams front seven, with Hill (2.2 yards per carry on 5 carries) not faring any better than Freeman (2.7 yards per carry on 7 totes). Ito Smith got hurt, of course, and we’re likely to see Qadree Ollison for the first time next week. Hopefully he can provide some missing juice, but the run blocking continues to be a catastrophe.

That’s been the story of the season on offense, really: Dirk Koetter has been largely unable to call a good game with injuries and ineffectiveness plaguing the line, which is going to lead to his pink slip later on and is a bitter disappointment given what the Falcons spent on the line. I actually really like a potential Matthews/Lindstrom/Mack or draft pick/Brown/McGary line in 2020 when the rookies have taken their lumps, but it’s been largely brutal to watch this year. I questioned again and again whether the team really needed to invest everything they did into this unit, and it’s not immediately apparent this team would be worse with Schweitzer starting full-time and Ty Sambrailo or Matt Gono at right tackle paired with a larger investment on the defensive line. It makes me sad to type that.

The Falcons guard tandem continues to have trouble staying healthy. Jamon Brown was one of the team’s better offensive linemen yesterday—not saying a ton, but still—but James Carpenter again missed time, forcing Wes Schweitzer to step in. Neither guy stood a chance against Aaron Donald, as you’d expect. With Chris Lindstrom on the shelf, the big makeover at guard has only one semi-bright spot in Brown, who should at least still be here next year.

The only other noteworthy note is that the Falcons briefly tried to get Russell Gage the ball on Sunday, and he responded with a pretty 13 yard grab and a near-big catch on a ball an off Matt Ryan threw behind him. As the season grinds on, it’s going to be critically important for the team to give Gage a chance to show whether he can be this team’s third or fourth option at receiver going forward, because it’s fair to say that neither Sanu or Hardy will likely be back next year under a new coaching staff.

Defense

Kendall Sheffield: 76

Ricardo Allen: 76

De’Vondre Campbell: 72

Deion Jones: 70

Damontae Kazee: 56

Allen Bailey: 52

Takk McKinley: 47

Jack Crawford: 46

Grady Jarrett: 46

Isaiah Oliver: 45

Vic Beasley: 45

Tyeler Davison: 40

Jamal Carter: 38

Kemal Ishmael: 38

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 34

John Cominsky: 23

Adrian Clayborn: 22

Foye Oluokun: 10


The Falcons actually made tangible personnel changes on defense this week, which might have been what Arthur Blank was teasing in the run-up to the game. Things went extremely south in the second half and the defense surrendered 17 points and gobs of yardage, but considering the state of the offense and everything working against them, their first half performance was...decent?

The personnel changes did not help the Falcons actually get any sacks, but they did get appreciably more pressure against a largely lead-footed Jared Goff. John Cominsky was impressive yet again with more playing time, Blidi Wreh-Wilson’s coverage as a stand-in for Isaiah Oliver was characteristically solid, and Jamal Carter showed real physicality mixing in for Kemal Ishmael, though he got burnt to a crisp in coverage on multiple occasions. The Falcons only stole a little time away from De’Vondre Campbell, but Foye Oluokun’s ten snaps saw him make some hustle plays and get a nice pressure and hit on Jared Goff, albeit one that was penalized because God forbid you actually land on a quarterback.

Mostly it was just guys taking their lumps against a very capable Rams offense, though, and at this point in the season I’m glad it was younger players getting that shot. Going forward we need to see more Sheffield, more Oliver, more Oluokun, more Cominsky, and heck, more Carter. They also need to start getting Deadrin Senat a real look. I know this team is never going to punt games on purpose, but the reality is that there are several veteran starters who won’t be here next year and aren’t getting the job done in the first place. I’d rather lose because Carter, Oliver and Sheffield are getting brutal live action lessons in how not to cover that will help them grow next year than watching Wreh-Wilson, Ishmael, and even Trufant do a slightly better job in what’s already a losing effort.

Special Teams

Foye Oluokun: 31

Sharrod Neasman: 31

Russell Gage: 31

Keith Smith: 21

Jaeden Graham: 21

Jermaine Grace: 20

Jamal Carter: 17

Jordan Miller: 16

Luke Stocker: 16

Justin Hardy: 14

Kenjon Barner: 13

Tyeler Davison: 13

John Cominsky: 13

Brian Hill: 10

De’Vondre Campbell: 10

Deion Jones: 10


Special teams was a fiasco yesterday, too, the first time all season they’ve been that much of a liability. I tend to think special teams coordinators fare better when there are huge coaching staff changes and that Kotwica could be around for the next head coach of the Falcons, but performances like this will give the next HC pause.

The sorriest play of them all was the fake punt. Johnny Hekker has done that literally a dozen or more times in his NFL career and Kotwica even talked about it in the run-up to the game, and yet when the Rams shifted to what sure looked like it’d be a punt attempt, the Falcons barely reacted and allowed an easy conversion. The coverage units have generally been at least solid this year, but that was a baffling play.

The fumble by Russell Gage where he got hit by three quarters of the Rams roster and half their fanbase was also a lowlight, and it might mean no more attempts for Gage for a while.

There’s also the not-so-small matter of Matt Bryant’s year-to-date. Bryant’s 70% conversion rate on his field goals, if it continued over a full season, would be tied for his lowest percentage ever with 2009, the year he took over partway through the season for a failing Jason Elam. His 93.3% on extra points, fueled by that single miss that kept the Falcons from tying the Cardinals, is also a career low. We all knew that at some point Bryant was not going to be absolute nails any more, and the fact that he’s not drilling kicks like he did even a year ago is not the team’s primary concern when they’re getting blown out every week, and I’d bet good money he’ll finish the year better than at least half the kickers in the league. Considering they cut ties with him in the first place only to panic sign him shortly before the season for more money than he would have made if they had just kept him is yet another questionable decision in what has been a year full of them.