Believe or not—and there are still moments, nearly 7 full months into the season, that I do not—it’s 2020. The 2010s were perhaps the most successful decade for the Falcons, with an 89-71 record that was tied for the 9th-best mark in the NFL over that span, plus a Super Bowl berth, two NFC Conference Championships, and 5 total playoff berths. Heartbreak still defined the decade—these are the Falcons, after all—but I’ll cherish a lot of the players and Atlanta teams I got to watch over the past 10 years.
Unsurprisingly, then, there are many memorable players and moments from this past decade. The Falcons decided to recognize that by polling local and national writers, former players and staff, and others to come up with a true All-Decade team, starting with the defense and special teams. Today, they announced the full group.
Our All-Decade Defensive Team is here!— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 13, 2020
STORY: https://t.co/0e3FqOWTUd pic.twitter.com/mocOuO5p6w
In the interest of full disclosure, The Falcoholic’s Jeanna Kelly and I were voters for this effort. The final results matched my ballot pretty closely, which speaks to how easy it was to identify the team’s true standouts over the last decade.
Here’s the defensive team:
Defensive end: John Abraham
Defensive end: Vic Beasley
Defensive tackle: Grady Jarrett
Defensive tackle: Jonathan Babineaux
Linebacker: Deion Jones
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton
Linebacker: Sean Weatherspoon
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant
Cornerback: Robert Alford
Safety: William Moore
Safety: Ricardo Allen
Flex: Brent Grimes
The easiest calls by far were Abraham, Jarrett, Babineaux, Debo, and Trufant. Beasley’s production and his legitimately legendary 2016 season were enough to put him above a mostly so-so cast of defensive end options at the spot opposite Abe, while linebacker featured strong pushes from Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas. Lofton and Weatherspoon were ultimately too good in their peak years in Atlanta to ignore, however.
At cornerback, Asante Samuel had a decent case and Grimes versus Alford was a bit of a toss-up, but Alford was impactful during a larger chunk of the 2010s and deserves recognition for his Super Bowl pick-six of Tom Brady alone. Safety was a little tough with Keanu Neal and (yes, really) Thomas DeCoud earning long looks from me on the ballot, but Willly Mo and Ricardo Allen were again too good for too long to pass up.
This defense really would be the best possible version of a Falcons defense from the 2010s, I think, especially if you could nab all these players in their prime. It would also be a legitimately terrific defense, something the Falcons have tragically not put together all that often over the past decade. Timing really is everything.
How about special teams?
Kicker: Matt Bryant
Punter: Matt Bosher
Returner: Devin Hester
Long snapper: Josh Harris
Special teams player: Eric Weems
Again, this one was pretty straightforward, though I had a bit of a tougher time with returner given that Weems was vastly, vastly underrated there during his time in Atlanta. Bryant has a good argument as the best kicker in franchise history, Bosher is almost certainly the best punter, and Josh Harris has been a hyper-reliable long snapper through pretty much the entire decade.
Hester earned the nod here for his excellence during his short stint in Atlanta, where he continued to look like one of the best returners who ever lived. Thankfully, Special Weems still gets his due as a core special teamer who did pretty much everything well over the course of his five seasons in Atlanta during the 2010s. I believe I voted for Weems at returner and gave Falcoholic favorite Kemal Ishmael his due as the core special teams player, but that was one of the few places my ballot deviated from the final results.
Again, this is the best possible version (or close to it) of this team’s special teams units over the last decade, and for pretty much the entire span from 2010-2019, this was the group, at least at kicker, punter, and long snapper. The Falcons were blessed with remarkable stability over that span.
Go check out the entire writeup at the official Atlanta falcons site and let us know who you would’ve picked in the comments. The team will be releasing a lot of cool All-Decade stuff over the next two weeks, as well, so stay tuned and we’ll keep you updated.