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Falcons snap counts: Making sense of playing time in another crushing loss

Is the problem with who is playing or who is coaching them?

Atlanta Falcons v Houston Texans Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images


Matt Ryan: 74

Jake Matthews: 74

James Carpenter: 74

Alex Mack: 74

Wes Schweitzer: 74

Kaleb McGary: 74

Mohamed Sanu: 62

Austin Hooper: 62

Calvin Ridley: 61

Julio Jones: 56

Devonta Freeman: 40

Ito Smith: 35

Luke Stocker: 17

Russell Gage: 16

Justin Hardy: 9

Keith Smith: 8

Jaeden Graham: 4

The Falcons got their first fully healthy game from a five man offensive line in a while, and they managed to actually score 30-plus points, avoid turnovers aside from a single irrelevant late game pick, and allowed just two sacks. That should count as a huge win—especially because Schweitzer was in at right guard and McGary is still finding his feet at right tackle—but it didn’t feel like a win.

There are many reasons for that. The Falcons allowed pressure at times from players who came in comically unblocked. They continued to struggle to block effectively, making it jarring every time Ito Smith or Devonta Freeman got a single quality block and picked up a ton of yards as a result. This unbalanced, mistake-prone line—penalties were again a problem here, if a lesser one—is just another source of woe for a team with plenty of them. The only important note in what is becoming a lost year is that McGary is getting invaluable experience, the Falcons are being reminded of why they ought to prioritize keeping Schweitzer around, and Chris Lindstrom may return and get valuable experience down the line. This still has the potential to be a good group, but for this year it’s probably too little, too late.

Dirk Koetter’s greatest failing has been scheming his receivers into positions to succeed, as he’s repeatedly fallen down on the job there. That means at least one receiver is having an awful week seemingly every week, and even in a better week for the offense overall, Ito Smith, Devonta Freeman, and Austin Hooper accounted for 17 of Matt Ryan’s 32 completions and 141 of his 330 yards. That’s a problem given that Julio, Sanu, and Ridley combined for just 13 of those receptions and 172 of those yards. With those weapons on hand, it should not be necessary to throw so many short passes, but a combination of uninspired play calling and shaky line play is turning this team into a glorified Titans offense.

Dirk Koetter is not going anywhere in the near term, and I’d like to see him turn this thing around so we at least can enjoy our Sundays. If he doesn’t, this is probably the last time he’s going to get an offensive coordinator job for a while, because wringing such meager results out of so much talent stinks.


De’Vondre Campbell: 73

Ricardo Allen: 73

Deion Jones: 72

Desmond Trufant: 70

Isaiah Oliver: 68

Grady Jarrett: 63

Tyeler Davison: 55

Allen Bailey: 55

Vic Beasley: 53

Takk McKinley: 52

Kemal Ishmael: 49

Damontae Kazee: 31

Kendall Sheffield: 28

Johnathan Cyprien: 24

Jack Crawford: 16

Adrian Clayborn: 15

John Cominsky: 2

Foye Oluokun: 1

What is there to say? It was a rock bottom effort, the product of a bad, confused defense doing bad, confusing things.

The Falcons got zero pass rush against the Watson, which leads to one of the more puzzling subplots of the day: They barely played capable pass rushers like Jack Crawford and Adrian Clayborn, leaning heavily on their capable run stuffers. They bottled up Carlos Hyde, by and large, allowing just 60 yards on 21 carries, but fared worse against Duke Johnson (9 carries, 59 yards) and Deshaun Watson (4 carries, 47 yards). All told, that focus on the run held the Texans to a pretty brutal 166 yard day on the ground while Houston merrily passed for over 400. The emphasis on stopping the run is no less useless than it was in 2014 when the Falcons bulked up their line via the additions of Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai, and it’s even worse when that doesn’t work.

But save your ire for the defense when it comes to the pass, because that’s the problem. As mentioned, the Falcons elected not to use Crawford (who in fairness has been quiet this year) or Clayborn (who is as stone solid as ever) and got no pass rush whatsoever. Takk McKinley finally had a truly quiet game and picked a bad time to do it, Vic Beasley continues to look better than last year but has not turned the corner the way the Falcons banked on, and Grady Jarrett can only do so much by himself. The entire lineback groups has been unimpressive in coverage this year, by and large, and the secondary outside of Desmond Trufant and Ricardo Allen has been a disaster, with those two mixing in some blunders as well. On Sunday we saw zero communication, constant coverage blunders, and no pressure to help alleviate any of that.

The result was one of the saddest defensive efforts not just of the Dan Quinn era, but in recent memory. There’s just no reason to think, after five games of this nonsense, that we’re headed for better.

Special Teams

Russell Gage: 31

Foye Olokun: 31

Sharrod Neasman: 31

Jaeden Graham: 26

Kendall Sheffield: 26

Jamal Carter: 26

Justin Hardy: 22

Jermaine Grace: 22

Matt Wile: 15

Jordan Miller: 14

Tyeler Davison: 13

Brian Hill: 13

Special teams had to play a LOT in a game that featured over 80 points of combined scoring. It’s nice to see Kendall Sheffield getting a little run on defense and he’s a capable tackler on special teams, but I do hope we’re done with the kick returner experiment after he returned four kicks for 16 yards.

Otherwise, it was the usual suspects out there doing capable work. Matt Wile had some impressive, booming punts and kicks on Sunday, but unfortunately for him he also committed the cardinal sin of kicking the ball out of bounds not once but twice. The Falcons will likely sniff around other punters this week, even if they intend to give him another shot.