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Falcons snap counts from a triumphant win over the Saints

It was Foye Oluokun’s time to shine, and he did.

NFL: DEC 30 Falcons at Buccaneers Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the things that will likely haunt me about this season long after it’s over is how slowly the Falcons came to some necessary realizations. It took weeks (and we don’t know how many weeks, given that Dan Quinn hasn’t made it clear how involved Jeff Ulbrich has been and when he started being involved) for Quinn to take playcalling duties off his crowded plate, for this team to put Damontae Kazee back at safety where he thrived a year ago, and for them to draw down the snaps of unproductive players and replace them with productive ones.

Would that have made a massive difference for a team that was getting its butt kicked week after week? There’s no way to be certain, but I tend to think so. The Falcons lost, over and over again, because they were making awful mistakes that they couldn’t seem to fix. I appreciate that they made changes at all—few coaches are willing to admit defeat like that—but I will always suspect being less stubborn about the team’s many flaws would have at least allowed for a more competitive season.

We can’t go back, though, so let’s look at the snap counts and see what personnel changes the Falcons made on Sunday.


Matt Ryan: 79 (100%)

Jake Matthews: 79

James Carpenter: 79

Alex Mack: 79

Kaleb McGary: 79

Jamon Brown: 76

Calvin Ridley: 70

Julio Jones: 63

Austin Hooper: 58

Russell Gage: 49

Brian Hill: 40

Luke Stocker: 31

Devonta Freeman: 30

Christian Blake: 15

Kenjon Barner: 11

Keith Smith: 10

Jaeden Graham: 8

Olamide Zaccheaus: 6

Justin Hardy: 4

Ty Sambrailo: 3

Russell Gage is keeping this role. He got two more snaps this week than a week ago, and on a very quiet week for the passing game, he tied Austin Hooper for the team lead in receptions with four. The Falcons also managed to get Christian Blake and Olamide Zaccheaus out there, with Blake snagging two balls for 15 yards and looking pretty solid out there. This offense doesn’t appear like it’s going to fall apart without Mohamed Sanu, at least.

Much has been and will be made of the ground game after the win, but the truth is that the Falcons did not have a ton of success running outside of two scrambles from Matt Ryan, a handoff to Calvin Ridley, and single nice runs by Brian Hill, Devonta Freeman, and Kenjon Barner. The offense continues to be hamstrung by Dirk Koetter’s insistence on unproductive early down runs up the middle, but the ground game did at least chew up an enormous amount of clock, limiting New Orleans’ opportunities on offense. I really hope the takeaway from this game isn’t that the Falcons need to run more, because they really just need to give Freeman and Hill better opportunities.

It’s also probably not a coincidence that the Falcons nearly had their full offensive line for the entire game. Kaleb McGary was particularly impressive against Cameron Jordan, and it looks like he’s blossoming into the tackle the Falcons hoped they were getting. That augurs well for 2020, at minimum.


Isaiah Oliver (100%): 69

Kendall Sheffield: 69

Ricardo Allen: 69

Deion Jones: 67

Damontae Kazee: 62

Takk McKinley: 56

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 55

Vic Beasley: 53

De’Vondre Campbell: 48

Adrian Clayborn: 37

Foye Oluokun: 30

Jack Crawford: 24

Tyeler Davison: 22

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 17

Allen Bailey: 15

Kemal Ishmael: 7

Jordan Miller: 7

The changes here are evident and real. The Falcons didn’t exactly bench Tyeler Davison and Allen Bailey, but the two stalwart run stoppers took a backseat to the likes of Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford, players who have a long history of pass rushing production to fall back on. The secondary doing a much better job was a major reason the pass rush thrived yesterday, but personnel shuffling certainly didn’t hurt. Even Tuioti-Mariner got in on the fun and looked pretty good, and when you have Takk, Beasley, and Jarrett playing well and better guys around them, the difference is palpable.

Foye Oluokun was also a big beneficiary of changing things up. The Falcons gave Campbell just 70% of snaps on defense Sunday and he responded with one of his best games of the year, but Oluokun was also a standout in his 30 snaps. We’ve been clamoring for him to get more time on the field and the Falcons, having seen how well he held up, will hopefully find a way to make that happen again next week.

The young secondary didn’t see any major changes, but they did play very well. Isaiah Oliver settled down after a slow start against Michael Thomas and played pretty well, Kendall Sheffield and Blidi Wreh-Wilson were excellent, and Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen set the tone with stellar physicality. What a great game.

I’m not sure you should expect these snap counts to continue next week, however, because the run-first Panthers are on deck.

Special Teams

Foye Oluokun: 21

Sharrod Neasman: 21

Jaeden Graham: 20

Kemal Ishmael: 18

Jermaine Grace: 18

Olamide Zaccheaus: 17

Keith Smith: 16

Luke Stocker: 13

Christian Blake: 13

Younghoe Koo: 13

Ryan Allen: 10

Josh Harris: 10

The usual suspects here, with Ishmael transitioning back into playing heavy special teams snaps with the Falcons electing to go back to Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen at safety. The usual suspects did not have their best game, however, as the Saints managed 19 yards on their lone punt return and 109 yards on four kickoff returns on the day. The team’s coverage units have quietly been a little shakier of late, which I hope is not a sign of things to come.

The big story lines of the day, of course, were the new kicker and punter. Allen only average 29 net yards on his two punts and got injured—we may be seeing yet another punter next week—but Koo managed three touchbacks, nailed all four of his field goal tries, and helped force a returner out of bounds on a great hustle play. It was just one week, but if you’re auditioning to be this team’s kicker of the future, you can’t really do much more than that.