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Falcons snap counts: A healthy offensive line goes a long way

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The Falcons won in part thanks to a gutsy, complete effort by their offensive starters.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Falcons weren’t healthy coming into this game and were even less healthy coming out of it, and yet they beat the 49ers. To understand why, it helps to know how the Falcons managed their snaps in this one, and how much mileage they got out of key starters along the offensive line, in their receiving corps, and on defense.

So let’s get to it.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 67

Jake Matthews: 67

Wes Schweitzer: 67

Alex Mack: 67

Chris Lindstrom: 67

Kaleb McGary: 67

Julio Jones: 59

Christian Blake: 57

Austin Hooper: 55

Devonta Freeman: 53

Russell Gage: 51

Luke Stocker: 22

Brian Hill: 10

Keith Smith: 9

Olamide Zaccheaus: 5

Justin Hardy: 5

Jaeden Graham: 4

Kenjon Barner: 3

Qadree Ollison: 1

John Wetzel: 1


The Falcons put a starting offensive line on the field that played the entire game together and consisted of both of their first round picks, their highly-paid center and left tackle, and Wes Schweitzer. It was more than good enough to get the victory on Sunday.

Schweitzer is the weak link in that group and played like it, but not to the extent that you’d expect. He got beaten badly a couple of times but otherwise turned in another solid effort, and it remains beyond aggravating that Atlanta spent big to replace him in free agency and once again it appears they could’ve spent that money more wisely elsewhere. Jamon Brown is parked on the bench and his Falcons future is uncertain, while James Carpenter has been dealing with injury and ineffectiveness all year. I’m beyond thrilled that this line is looking this good—it bodes well for 2020, when Matthews, Lindstrom and McGary at least will be back—but it’s yet another way in which the Falcons could’ve and should’ve managed this year better.

That’s it for sour notes. People complain about Julio Jones not playing a ton of snaps every week, but the truth is that Atlanta picks their spots with him because they can. With Calvin Ridley out and nobody else really stepping up—Gage was second on the team with 5 receptions for 27 yards, yikes—Julio played nearly 90% of the snaps and dominated the target share. It’s not an exaggeration to say he was one of the major reasons they beat the 49ers, and he’ll need to be close to that good again next week against the Jaguars. It is interesting that Christian Blake has taken on the vast majority of snaps opposite Julio, and he remains a promising player even if he hasn’t been a productive one to this point.

Finally, give it up for Qadree Ollison, who played one snap in the T.J. Duckett Memorial Role and got himself a touchdown. He’s averaging a touchdown every seven carries or so this year and should be the team’s first short yardage option next year.

Defense

Deion Jones: 64

Isaiah Oliver: 64

Damontae Kazee: 63

Kendall Sheffield: 63

Vic Beasley: 61

Grady Jarrett: 57

Ricardo Allen: 50

Adrian Clayborn: 44

Tyeler Davison: 39

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 33

Jack Crawford: 30

Foye Oluokun: 28

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 23

Deadrin Senat: 12

Kemal Ishmael: 4

Takk McKinley: 4

Jamal Carter: 2


With Takk exiting the game almost immediately, this looked like a potential bloodbath. Instead, the Falcons put together yet another genuinely impressive effort on defense.

The run defense was predictably challenged in the early going, but the final numbers don’t look as bad as I thought they would. The Falcons leaned heavily on Jarrett, who has become a world beater against the run, and stone solid run stoppers Clayborn and Davison to help get that job done. Both of those guys have shown tremendous value for the Falcons this year and should be back next year, if they’d like to be.

The pass defense was even more impressive. Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped into a big role and swatted down three Jimmy Garoppolo passes, playing tight defense all day. Sheffield and Oliver almost completely shut down their charges, with Jimmy G only really finding success with George Kittle on the day. The pass rush didn’t get home much, either, but between Beasley and Jarrett, they were able to disrupt him and force the 49ers quarterback into some lousy throws.

I really wish all this wasn’t too little too late for the season, but having a sense of who the Falcons can rely on next year still is quite welcome. Knowing that Oliver and Sheffield can handle starting, in particular, is a very big deal.

Special Teams

Kemal Ishmael: 27

Sharrod Neasman: 27

Jaeden Graham: 24

Keith Smith: 22

Olamide Zaccheaus: 21

Jamal Carter: 19

Brian Hill: 17

Luke Stocker: 15

Qadree Ollison: 15

Foye Oluokun: 11

Kenjon Barner: 10


No surprises here. The only real surprise was the number of miscues on special teams on Sunday, with Ben Kotwica’s unit doing generally solid work this year aside from a couple of blowups. I doubt they’ll scuffle against the Jaguars next week.