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Falcons snap counts and notes from a defense-led win over the Jaguars

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What can we learn from this week’s snap counts?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Falcons sewed the buttons on another win Sunday, and it was yet another game where Atlanta’s defense carried the day. The Falcons have now allowed 20 or fewer points in four games in the second half, and while Jacksonville was far from their greatest challenge, the improvement on that side of the ball is allowing a so-so offense to continue to skate by.

Let’s see what the snap counts tell us about Week 16.


Matt Ryan: 75 (100%)

Jake Matthews: 75

Wes Schweitzer: 75

Alex Mack: 75

Chris Lindstrom: 75

Kaleb McGary: 75

Devonta Freeman: 58

Julio Jones: 57

Austin Hooper: 52

Christian Blake: 43

Luke Stocker: 40

Russell Gage: 38

Justin Hardy: 21

Keith Smith: 18

Olamide Zaccheaus: 15

Brian Hill: 14

Jaeden Graham: 9

Ty Sambrailo: 7

Kenjon Barner: 2

Qadree Ollison: 1

Atlanta’s usage at receiver and tight end remains kind of baffling. The Falcons are trotting out Christian Blake a lot (57% of offensive snaps this week) and Luke Stocker (53%), and finding playing time for Zaccheaus (20%) and Hardy (28%). Those players combined for two targets in the passing game yesterday, and while Stocker, Blake and Hardy all can block, that’s part of the reason Ryan has been so ready and willing to lock in on Julio. It’s a little late in the season to figure out how to get those guys more involved, but it’s a little maddening that we’re not getting a better picture of how the young guys in particular can contribute to the passing game. With Gage established, Ridley returning in 2020, and a draft pick potentially joining the group, perhaps they simply won’t be needed.

The offensive line has settled in to its best configuration for the moment, even if it’s far from clear that Wes Schweitzer is really better than, say, Matt Gono or even Jamon Brown at left guard. He’ll be one of the more interesting free agents this offseason with Alex Mack not a lock to return, given that the team is once again showing outsized faith in his ability after trying for the second consecutive season to replace him outright. Lindstrom, Matthews, and McGary are all playing well right now, in particular.

I’m starting to love the team’s usage of Qadree Ollison, who this week played just one snap and plunged through bodies for another touchdown. He now has four touchdowns on just 18 carries this season, a preposterous number, and he may settle into a short-yardage power role in 2020 that he seems well-suited for. It’s been years since the Falcons had and used a back like a hammer in that role.

What worries me most is that the Falcons continue to be a pretty unspectacular offense when it counts, even as the line has improved and Dirk Koetter has made some incremental improvements as a play caller. They put up over 500 yards yesterday, the second time this year they’ve managed to put up those lofty yardage totals. In those two games, they have a combined 44 points, a weak total that makes it clear just how deep the problems with Koetter run. In total, this team has only scored more than 30 points three times this season, and that’s got to change next year no matter how good the defense gets.

Again, though, I’m not sure


Deion Jones: 62 (100%)

De’Vondre Campbell: 62

Isaiah Oliver: 62

Kendall Sheffield: 62

Damontae Kazee: 59

Vic Beasley: 56

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 49

Ricardo Allen: 49

Grady Jarrett: 47

Adrian Clayborn: 35

Allen Bailey: 29

Tyeler Davison: 28

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 26

Jack Crawford: 23

Foye Oluokun: 13

John Cominsky: 11

Jamal Carter: 9

Injuries have made this side of the ball a little leaner, but they still did a very nice job, as they have in all but one game in the season’s second half. Atlanta allowed a staggering 250 points in the first half of the season, and to put that total in perspective versus how they’ve fared of late, they’d have to allow 123 points against the Buccaneers on Sunday to match that total. Matchups have helped, but the improvement has been real.

Few matchups were as friendly as the Jags, who have scored under 20 points six times in 2019, and Atlanta got the job done with plenty of pressure on Gardner Minshew, tight coverage from their top trio of cornerbacks, and solid enough run defense. The Falcons leaned heavily on their usual cast of characters in this one, but Blidi Wreh-Wilson continued to play well, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner has made it clear he’s ready to be a part of the defensive line rotation in 2020, and we got a little Cominsky and Oluokun, who also figure to be critical depth at worst next year.

In the second half, at least, the defense has been the superior unit, which is always fun to type. The question is whether Atlanta can stay rolling next year with attrition coming, given that they may need to replace Campbell, Crawford, Davison, and others. I’m not so sure of that just yet, even if I feel pretty good about where the team’s corners are at.

Special Teams

Jaeden Graham: 23

Sharrod Neasman: 20

Keith Smith: 18

Kemal Ishmael: 17

Ahmad Thomas: 15

Jamal Carter: 15

Olamide Zaccheaus: 11

Luke Stocker: 11

Jamar Taylor: 11

Kenjon Barner: 10

Qadree Ollison: 10

Foye Oluokun: 10

Younghoe Koo: 10

The Falcons added to their usual cast here, with new signings Jamar Taylor and Ahmad Thomas soaking up some snaps. This was another quietly shaky effort from this unit, with Barner not getting a ton of room to run, muffing a punt he thankfully recovered, and Koo missing a field goal.

There’s a lot of uncertainty here, so it’d behoove everyone on this list to finish the season strong. Neasman and Ishmael are free agents again and so are Barner, Koo, and punter Ryan Allen, but it’s certainly conceivable that the Falcons would bring back all five to at least compete for roles in 2020, given that they’ve all had brilliant moments in 2019.