I was fairly confident there’d be an NFL season a couple months back. But I’ll be frank, I’m not as confident as I once was. There appear to be some nearly insurmountable obstacles teams will be asked to overcome. That said, the NFL isn’t going to just call off the season— there’s too much money at stake. They’re going to push and go down swinging, so to speak. So, if they can manage to pull off the impossible, how are we feeling about the Falcons? Can they realistically sniff contender status?
ESPN ranked all 32 NFL rosters earlier this week. The article itself is behind a paywall, but it’s certainly worth noting that Ben Linsey ranked the Falcons 20th. The Ravens got the top billing, while the Jaguars apparently have the worst roster in the NFL. The Saints (2nd) and the Buccaneers (5th) were both ranked ahead of the Falcons. (It should come as no surprise that the Panthers were ranked near the bottom at 29th.)
Here’s where Linsey thinks the Falcons are most vulnerable:
Falcons cornerbacks combined to allow 9.1 yards per target on throws into their coverage in 2019 — a number that was better than only the cornerback units for the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals. They spent a first-round pick on A.J. Terrell to help, but with the loss of Desmond Trufant, it’s going to take big jumps from Isaiah Oliver (56.8 overall grade in 2019) and Kendall Sheffield (47.5 overall grade in 2019) to see significantly improved production next season.
Linsey acknowledges that Dante Fowler is a bit of a wild card for the Falcons. His ability to contribute at a high level could literally make or break this team. Because truth be told, a healthy pass rush will help disguise the relative youth of the Falcons secondary.
Concerns about the Falcons cornerbacks aside, any offense featuring Julio Jones and Matt Ryan can’t be underestimated. Sure, Todd Gurley’s arthritic knee is a question mark. And sure, we can talk about Hayden Hurst’s ceiling all day long, but his potential means nothing until he’s helping the Falcons win football game. The point is that this offense could be elite, under the right circumstances. And if the defense can carry its momentum from the second half of 2019 into 2020, the combination of an elite offense and a passable defense will certainly make the Falcons competitive. Maybe they won’t win the Super Bowl, but a return to the playoffs isn’t unrealistic.
Your thoughts about all of this, Falcoholics?