One of the things I like to do periodically during the season is to check in on where current players stand on the franchise leaderboards. This season alone, Matt Ryan moved into fifth all-time for games played, surpassing Jonathan Babineaux on the way; Julio Jones surpassed Roddy White for career receiving yardage; Vic Beasley leapfrogged several players to become fifth all-time in sacks for Atlanta; and Devonta Freeman rolled past Dave Hampton and Michael Vick to amass the sixth-highest rushing yards in team history.
As it turns out, even in these last two games there are opportunities for players to keep moving up. Let’s take a quick look at those so we know what to keep an eye out for against the Jaguars and Buccaneers.
Devonta Freeman: 3rd place on career rushing touchdown list
Free has had a largely forgettable year behind a line that can’t block for him, putting up just 545 yards on the ground and 321 through the air with 4 combined touchdowns. With a superlative effort over the season’s final two games, though, he has an outside chance of surpassing the great Jamal Anderson in one way.
Freeman currently has 31 career rushing touchdowns, which is tied for fourth all-time for the Falcons. If he manages three more he’ll tie Jam for third place, and if he manages four he’d have that record all for himself.
Free’s future with the team is cloudy after this year, given Atlanta’s major need for cap space, and he may never get the shot to catch Gerald Riggs (48) or Michael Turner (60) in this particular metric. Let’s see if he can beat the odds and run in a few these last couple of weeks.
Julio Jones: All alone in 2nd place for receiving touchdowns
Currently, Julio owns receiving yardage for the Falcons and is just 28 receptions behind Roddy White, a mark he’ll surely hit early next year. He’s also still six touchdown grabs behind Roddy, which is likely to take a little longer.
With just one more score, however, Julio will take sole possession of second place in team history for that particular mark. He’s currently tied with the great Terance Mathis at 57, and it doesn’t seem like a huge stretch for him to get uno mas with Calvin Ridley out for the rest of the year.
Kenjon Barner: Best career kick return average
Crazy but absolutely true: Barner’s 26.6 yards per kickoff return average in 2019 is currently the highest total in team history over a season. There are players with higher averages, but none of them have more than four returns. Barner’s 13 aren’t as impressive as, say, sustaining 25.7 yards over 100 returns like Darrick Vaughn, but it’s still a noteworthy mark.
Let’s see if he can sustain it in what has been a very good season for the best returner the Falcons have trotted out there since Devin Hester.
Damontae Kazee: Moving up the interceptions leaderboard
Kazee has established himself as a real ballhawk at safety, the kind the Falcons haven’t had in a long, long time. He picked seven passes last year and has picked three this year, putting him on a clear path to pass the likes of Robert Alford, Desmond Trufant, and Thomas DeCoud in the near future.
With just one more pick, Kazee will be alone at 21st all-time in team history with 11 interceptions. Should he manage one more—don’t rule that out—he’ll be tied with Tommy Nobis, Keith Brooking, Ashley Ambrose and Greg Brezina. From there, he can move into the top ten all-time next year if he’s settled in at a starting safety spot and keeps picking passes at his current rate.
Kazee is probably never going to get close to the top of the all-time leaderboard, though. The great, underappreciated Rolland Lawrence still owns the record with 39 interceptions in eight seasons in Atlanta, and that’ll be a tough mark to equal or exceed.
Adrian Clayborn and Grady Jarrett: Quarterback hits
Obviously if the NFL was tracking quarterback hits way back into the history of this franchise, Clayborn and Jarrett wouldn’t be quite so high up. But the fact of the matter is that they are, and they both have a real shot at moving into third place in the annals of team history in this particular stat.
Clayborn has 54 and Jarrett has 53 over the course of their Falcons careers, putting them at fourth and fifth place respectively. Seven for Clayborn and eight for Jarrett would put them over (who else?) Kroy Biermann (60) for third place all-time. The only players ahead of them at that point would be Jonathan Babineaux (66, well in reach for Jarrett next year) and John Abraham (115).
If you’re wondering who’s just behind them, it’s Vic Beasley with 45.