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Falcons snap counts with four games remaining

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What do the snaps tell us for 2020?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Let’s look at snap counts and the status of these players for 2020, to get a sense of what the Falcons should probably keep and what they may need to replace.


Jake Matthews: 869 (99.89%)

Alex Mack: 862

Kaleb McGary: 810

Matt Ryan: 773

Calvin Ridley: 680

James Carpenter: 679

Jamon Brown: 592

Julio Jones: 572

Austin Hooper: 512

Devonta Freeman: 451

Wes Schweitzer: 421

Mohamed Sanu: 383

Russell Gage: 331

Luke Stocker: 300

Jaeden Graham: 180

Brian Hill: 179

Christian Blake: 159

Ito Smith: 152

Justin Hardy: 147

Keith Smith: 138

Matt Schaub: 97

Ty Sambrailo: 89

Kenjon Barner: 56

Chris Lindstrom: 45

Qadree Ollison: 34

Olamide Zaccheaus: 32

Carson Meier: 27

Sean Harlow: 1

There is much to be gleaned from these snap counts when it comes to determining the reasons for the abundance of Falcon-related failure this year.

Let’s start with the offensive line. Dirk Koetter’s unit likely would’ve struggled a bit more this year given that he’s a fan of a vertical passing attack regardless of what happened with the line’s health, but the line has not been healthy. Atlanta’s had to play nine different linemen this year, with first rounder Chris Lindstrom getting just 45 snaps and just three starters (Matthews, Mack, and McGary) playing above 90% of the offensive snaps in 2019. The guard situation has been grim, with Carpenter, Brown, and Schweitzer all getting teed off on at different times this year.

That has been an abject disaster for any number of reasons, but here’s the big one: Matt Ryan is getting killed. Koetter’s offense has not proven adept at quickly getting receivers open and he’s eyeing downfield throws, and partly as a result of that, Ryan’s average time to throw has gone from 16th in the NFL at 2.68 seconds to 20th in the NFL at 2.78. That number has gone up because Ryan is holding on to the ball too much waiting for things to happen, sure, but also because plays are not developing as they should be.

The line is also the primary reason the ground game has struggled, but the Falcons carried five backs this year and have had to use all of them. Ito Smith was the team’s most effective runner on his limited carries but was knocked out for the year on an ill-fated blocking attempt, Devonta Freeman has been solid but very unspectacular, and neither Brian Hill or Qadree Ollison has had much luck in relief. Ideally, better blocking and a fully healthy Free and Ito would’ve made for at least a decent rushing attack, but Koetter being the hire at offensive coordinator probably doomed that. The upshot here is that no one has stood out enough to prevent the Falcons from cutting Freeman and drafting yet another back in 2020, which at this point seems likely.

Receiver has been a little more of a success story, though again Koetter’s inability to get guys open and the team’s reliance on young, unproven talent hasn’t been ideal. At least Gage and Blake have stepped into the void left by Mohamed Sanu’s departure and injuries and played pretty well, meaning that if Atlanta wants to go into next season without making major changes to the depth chart at the position, they can justify doing so. Gage in particular is someone I think could be a very solid third receiver over the long haul.

Tight end was the Austin Hooper show for much of the year, but Stocker has turned back into the very solid blocker the Falcons expected when they hired him, and Jaeden Graham has shown flashes of brilliance along the way. I’m assuming Hooper will be back next year with an extension, meaning this part of the depth chart is also in good shape.

The offense should be at least good next year with a new play caller, Matthews, Lindstrom, and McGary locked in at three spots, and with the weapons on hand healthy. But without more sweeping changes or a brilliant offensive coordinator hire that gets this team back to a crisper, more effective passing attack and blocking scheme, it probably won’t be more than just good.


Ricardo Allen: 765 (96.35%)

Deion Jones: 725

De’Vondre Campbell: 711

Isaiah Oliver: 697

Grady Jarrett: 621

Damontae Kazee: 566

Vic Beasley: 569

Takk McKinley: 509

Desmond Trufant: 502

Kendall Sheffield: 485

Allen Bailey: 454

Tyeler Davison: 442

Jack Crawford: 323

Adrian Clayborn: 314

Kemal Ishmael: 270

Foye Oluokun: 202

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 167

Keanu Neal: 167

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 83

Jamal Carter: 69

John Cominsky: 60

Jonathan Cyprien: 24

Jordan Miller: 10

Sharrod Neasman: 9

Jermaine Grace: 6

Russell Gage: 1

Duke Riley: 1

As odd as it is to say this, the defense is probably in better shape than the offense. There are a number of free agents and huge snap counts to replace, sure, but the Falcons also have in-house options like Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Deadrin Senat, and John Cominsky to fill some of the snaps vacated by Jack Crawford, Adrian Clayborn, and Tyeler Davison if they’re not re-signed, Foye Oluokun at linebacker if De’Vondre Campbell doesn’t return, and Jordan Miller and Jamal Carter for the likes of Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Kemal Ishmael. They’ll need to be aggressive and active in the draft to add pass rush help in particular, but with the defense showing real improvement on the back end, there is reason to believe they won’t be godawful again to start 2020.

Up front, though, there is still much work to be done. Jarrett, Clayborn, and Takk have been the only consistently effective defensive linemen when it comes to getting after the passer, and Clayborn (not to mention Crawford and Davison) are not locks to return next season. There is no particular reason to believe that Cominsky is going to turn into a juggernaut next year and the Falcons aren’t going to be loaded up with cash, meaning they’re going to have to be reliant on draft picks and low-priced pickups to fill the void. If they whiff again in the offseason, this will be a below average pass rush again because the handful of quality players they have can’t do it all alone. The bright side is that Takk, Allen Bailey (if he returns), Jarrett, Senat and Cominsky has the makings of a solid run-stopping group.

Linebacker is not much more settled. Campbell is far from a lock to return, which is a problem both because he’s been a quality player and because he plays such a huge number of snaps, but Foye Oluokun has looked good enough to take at least a large portion of those snaps if he has to. Deion Jones is one of the better linebackers in football, still, but beyond him and Oluokun there’s nobody under contract next year. The Falcons will probably draft another one and probably add a veteran, whether or not they bring back Kemal Ishmael once more.

The secondary actually seems to be in great shape, comparatively speaking. Desmond Trufant has been stellar since returning from injury, Sheffield has been blossoming into a legitimate player, and Oliver’s physicality and improved coverage bode well for 2020. That’s not even mentioning Jordan Miller, who still has upside, or Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who would be affordable to retain as an experienced, quality veteran next season. Safety has the excellent, hyper-reliable Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal (if he can return to form), Damontae Kazee and his considerable promise despite his uneven 2019 results, and Jamal Carter as the last option on the roster. I’m sure they’ll add at least one more guy, but the secondary figures to be relatively intact in 2020.

With some smart low-grade signings and quality draft picks on the defensive line and in the linebacker groups, this defense should at least approach solid next year. Of course, we’ve said that before without that actually happening, so keep your expectations measured.

Special Teams

Sharrod Neasman: 251 (77%)

Foye Oluokun: 239

Jermaine Grace: 216

Jaeden Graham: 207

Keith Smith: 176

Russell Gage: 162

Luke Stocker: 137

Kemal Ishmael: 126

Kendall Sheffield: 125

Jamal Carter: 116

Tyeler Davison: 108

Kenjon Barner: 93

Josh Harris: 90

Olamide Zaccheaus: 88

Duke Riley: 79

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 79

Justin Hardy: 75

Brian Hill: 74

Jordan Miller: 74

Damontae Kazee: 74

Jack Crawford: 69

Allen Bailey: 60

Deion Jones: 59

De’Vondre Campbell: 57

Christian Blake: 56

Jake Matthews: 49

Kaleb McGary: 46

Younghoe Koo: 46

Qadree Ollison: 45

Isaiah Oliver: 45

Grady Jarrett: 44

Wes Schweitzer: 43

James Carpenter: 41

Jamon Brown: 40

Ryan Allen: 35

Matt Bryant: 34

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 31

Kasey Redfern: 28

John Cominsky: 26

Matt Wile: 25

Matthew Bosher: 25

Ty Sambrailo: 21

Austin Larkin: 11

D.J. White: 10

Matt Schaub: 9

Carson Meier: 8

Ito Smith: 7

Mohamed Sanu: 6

Matt Gono: 4

Alex Mack: 4

Ricardo Allen: 3

Jon Cyprien: 3

Takk McKinley: 2

The Falcons have gotten basically everyone involved at some point or another, but we’re chiefly concerned with the core special teamers.

Things have not gone well at kicker, where Matt Bryant was signed at the last second to replace Giorgio Tavecchio before giving way to Younghoe Koo. It’s possible that Koo ends up being a long-term option for Atlanta, but he did miss one kick and extra point badly against the Saints, which will set off some alarm bells in Flowery Branch.

Ditto punter. Matt Bosher’s contract is up after this year and the team has gone through five guys this year, with Bosher returning to the field this week. I’m not sure the 2020 Falcons punter is currently on the roster.

My other big concern is that Atlanta has gotten rid of or may not re-sign guys who have been core special teamers this year. Jermaine Grace is gone now, Sharrod Neasman and Kemal Ishmael are free agents, and Tyeler Davison also may not return. The Falcons still have plenty of capable players, but it’d be nice to see at least a couple of those players return given how integral they’ve been to the coverage and blocking units this year.