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Falcons snap counts from a Saints loss we’re not going to talk about much longer

There aren’t an abundance of interesting notes this week unless you’re a big fan of Justin McCray.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sometimes, snap counts illuminate. Other times, they simply tell us what we already know, but with numbers that better indicate who was on the field, something that’s easy to be unsure in the hustle of gameday and before a second watch.

This week, we learned that Justin McCray took over at left guard with James Carpenter out, that the defensive line rotation is very different when the Falcons face the Saints, and that Sterling Hofrichter is plenty capable of taking on kickoffs. Let’s get to the nitty gritty for the week, and then we’re on to the Chargers.


Matt Ryan: 67

Jake Matthews: 67

Justin McCray: 67

Alex Mack: 67

Chris Lindstrom: 67

Kaleb McGary: 67

Calvin Ridley: 63

Julio Jones: 63

Russell Gage: 52

Hayden Hurst: 42

Luke Stocker: 24

Ito Smith: 24

Todd Gurley: 22

Brandon Powell: 12

Brian Hill: 11

Keith Smith: 10

Jaeden Graham: 8

Christian Blake: 3

Matt Gono: 1

With a healthy Julio back in action, the receiver group ended up being just Julio, Ridley and Gage, with a small dose of Brandon Powell and Christian Blake. In the end, Laquon Treadwell didn’t get any action and Atlanta tried to make things work purely with their horses, which led to a more productive passing attack overall but one that was still marred by drops. I wouldn’t expect anything to change next week against the Chargers in that regard.

The offensive line saw one major change with Justin McCray plugging in at left guard instead of James Carpenter, and overall the unit played much better, actually buying some time for Ryan to roll out of the pocket and make some plays. McCray didn’t look like a dropoff from Carpenter and probably will continue to start while he’s out, meaning the Falcons will head into next year without Matt Gono or Matt Hennessy getting an extended audition. I will give Dirk Koetter and company credit for at least trying to get the ball out faster, with the drops killing them despite only allowing three sacks this time out.

Finally, the running back snaps were telling and deeply aggravating. Ito Smith effectively was the starter with Todd Gurley limited and put forth a solid day, going for 36 yards on 8 carries with a 15 yarder mixed in there. He would ultimately exit the game with an injury but has now looked like the best runner on the roster in consecutive weeks, leading me to question why he was mothballed most of the year. Hill was effectively relegated to a backup role with Gurley pulling down a season-low 22 snaps, but it’ll likely be back to a Hill/Gurley split next with Ito potentially on the shelf for a bit.


Foye Oluokun: 78

Deion Jones: 78

A.J. Terrell: 76

Keanu Neal: 70

Grady Jarrett: 62

Darqueze Dennard: 62

Tyeler Davison: 51

Steven Means: 50

Ricardo Allen: 50

Isaiah Oliver: 49

Dante Fowler Jr.: 39

Mykal Walker: 35

Allen Bailey: 33

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 32

Sharrod Neasman: 31

John Cominsky: 20

Marlon Davidson: 18

Charles Harris: 12

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 8

Kendall Sheffield: 4

The Falcons love playing Tyeler Davison a lot against the Saints, and this time that worked out pretty well, as he was one of the more active and disruptive defenders on the field for Atlanta. He and Means were key contributors and while I don’t always understand or love how snaps are divvied up on the defensive line, I can’t deny that the team generally does a nice job of rolling out a quality line each week.

Two sour notes: I don’t love Marlon Davidson once again getting limited opportunities when he looked like a difference maker against the Raiders, but I’m hopeful that will be a one week blip. The second note concerns the continued use of Dante Fowler Jr. in a prominent role, given that he is increasingly having an aggravating season. I know injury has been a factor there, but Fowler has just two sacks despite being second on the team in pressures (per Pro Football Reference), and he leads the team by far in percentage of missed tackles, with an ugly 21.7%. I know Raheem Morris and company have talked up his work against the run, but Fowler has been the latest in a long line of free agent disappointments as a pass rusher, and I’d like to see more work for Charles Harris in the closing weeks.

The only other major surprise was that Sheffield barely played. He may not be close to 100% at the moment, which would help explain his absence after he had been splitting time at cornerback with others, but the net result was that Isaiah Oliver played a lot more this week. Given that Sheffield was a fixture on special teams, it simply seems he’s temporarily fallen out of favor. He’s young enough and talented enough that he should work his way back into the lineup, either this year or next.

Neasman, meanwhile, appears to be the third safety at the moment. That combined with his work on special teams should give him ample opportunity to return, even under a new coaching staff.

Special Teams

Sharrod Neasman: 17

Kendall Sheffield: 15

Keith Smith: 15

LaRoy Reynolds: 15

Edmond Robinson: 15

Mykal Walker: 13

Luke Stocker: 13

Jaeden Graham: 13

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 12

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 10

Steven Means; 9

Brandon Powell: 9

Josh Harris: 9

Foye Oluokun: 7

Grady Jarrett: 7

Isaiah Oliver: 7

John Cominsky: 7

Christian Blake: 7

A.J. Terrell: 6

Brian Hill: 6

Laquon Treadwell: 6

Charles Harris: 5

Tyeler Davison: 4

Allen Bailey: 4

Kaleb McGary: 4

Allen Bailey: 4

Jake Matthews: 4

Chris Lindstrom: 4

Matt Gono: 4

Younghoe Koo: 4

John Wetzel: 4

Keanu Neal: 3

Dante Fowler Jr.: 2

Darqueze Dennard: 1

The big notes here are as follows: This continues to be a solid unit, Younghoe Koo is a kicking god, and Sterling Hofrichter may continue to handle kickoffs if there’s any doubt about Koo’s health.