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Falcons snap counts and notes from the loss to the Seahawks

There are some clear winners in the playing time battle in Week 1.

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On first blush, Matt Hennessy seemed to be in the game quite a bit Sunday, and Takk McKinley, Dante Fowler Jr., and Grady Jarrett were extremely visible. The snap counts tend to tell us whether our initial impressions of the game are correct or not, at least in terms of how the team has divvied up playing time, and there were a couple of surprises in this week’s report.

Let’s get to it.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 79

Jake Matthews: 79

Alex Mack: 79

Chris Lindstrom: 79

Kaleb McGary: 79

Calvin Ridley: 68

Julio Jones: 65

Hayden Hurst: 62

James Carpenter: 61

Russell Gage: 55

Todd Gurley: 36

Luke Stocker: 25

Brian Hill: 21

Ito Smith: 20

Matt Hennessy: 18

Keith Smith: 13

Olamide Zaccheaus: 11

Jaeden Graham: 8

Christian Blake: 7

Brandon Powell: 2

Matt Gono: 2


If there were any doubts that Russell Gage was the third receiver and an integral part of the offense, Sunday ought to have erased them. He was behind only Jones, Ridley, and Hurst in terms of snaps and had over 100 yards receiving, making it clear that he has real upside in this offense. The team’s 4th, 5th and 6th receivers combined for less than half of his snaps and basically zero production on the day.

Todd Gurley was the lead back, as anticipated, but he didn’t truly dominate snaps. Brian Hill and Ito Smith were both involved, with Hill getting more run on the ground and Ito getting some looks in the passing game, and it’s clear the team expects to rotate through their backs. Gurley will almost certainly get more 10 carries when the team isn’t lagging so far behind, but Hill in particular looks like an active part of the offense.

Finally, James Carpenter is indeed the starting left guard, at least for the moment. The Falcons followed through on their promise to mix Matt Hennessy in at the position and I thought he fared well while he was in there, but he played less than a quarter of the offensive snaps. We’ll see if the coaching staff liked what they saw enough to make that split closer to 50/50 next week.

The snap counts tell a larger story that’s not particularly pleasant, as well, As was the case a year ago, the Falcons passed for some gaudy totals, but they also had 79 snaps and threw 54 times, meaning that passing attack was not as efficient as it needed to be. That was an issue last year against Seattle, too, while Russell Wilson and company threw fewer passes combined over the last two games than Ryan threw in this one and walked away with wins both times. Hopefully things will be crisper next week.

Defense

Isaiah Oliver: 62

A.J. Terrell: 62

Damontae Kazee: 62

Deion Jones: 59

Keanu Neal: 51

Grady Jarrett: 50

Dante Fowler Jr.: 49

Foye Oluokun: 46

Takk McKinley: 43

Tyeler Davison: 41

John Cominsky: 40

Darqueze Dennard: 39

Ricardo Allen: 25

Allen Bailey: 16

Steven Means: 12

Deadrin Senat: 12

Mykal Walker: 10

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 3

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 1


Our first glimpse at the three safety set gave us an early idea of the pecking order. Kazee played every single snap, Neal played most of them, and Allen functioned as the third safety. I’m assuming that was game plan related and not in reaction to the pass interference call, but I’ll be interested to see if that pattern holds next week against a speedy Cowboys offense.

The line rotation was dominated by Takk, Fowler, Jarrett, Davidson and (somewhat surprisingly) Cominsky, and they did a solid job on a day where the defense didn’t have a ton to write home about. Aside from one 28 yard scramble from Russell Wilson, they clamped down hard on the run (kudos to the entire defense for that, of course), and they managed 4 sacks and plenty of pressure on Wilson. Bailey and Means in particular might get more run as the season goes on, but on a day where the team didn’t fear the run as much as they might against, say, Dallas, they found a good core group of five guys that delivered real pass rushing punch. I’m a fan.

The secondary obviously had a tougher time. Terrell allowed every target that went his way to be completed, Oliver had an up-and-down game marked by that touchdown bomb to DK Metcalf against him, and Dennard had shaky moments in this one. Any game where the defensive line gets quality production and the quarterback has a phenomenal game is one where your secondary has probably failed, and neither the safeties nor the corners fared very well in this one. There’s no cavalry coming at either position group, so they simply have to get better.

The final note here is that snaps will get interesting when Charles Harris and Marlon Davidson return from injury. Initially I’d expect Davidson to chew up Senat’s snaps before becoming a bigger part of the rotation, likely at the expense of Davison and Cominsky, while Harris probably mixes in with Bailey and Means. I can’t see a road to a major role for him in this defense right now.

Special Teams

Sharrod Neasman: 25

Mykal Walker: 19

LaRoy Reynolds: 19

Keith Smith: 19

Olamide Zaccheaus: 17

Jaylinn Hawkins: 16

Luke Stocker: 14

Brandon Powell: 11

Jaeden Graham: 11

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 11

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 11

Keanu Neal: 9

Brian Hill: 7


Special teams fared pretty well in this one, aside from Younghoe Koo’s missed extra point. They managed to snag an onside kick, successfully converted a fake punt (that Neasman unfortunately fumbled away, but still), and only allowed one return of consequence (David Moore’s nice 15 yard return. We didn’t get much of an opportunity to see Powell and Zaccheaus in action, as the Falcons had 7 touchbacks on kickoffs and just one punt return, but certainly I saw enough to be optimistic about this group going forward.

The core players here are exactly who you’d expect. Big-time contributors from years past like Neasman, Smith, Reynolds, Zaccheaus, Stocker, and Graham figure in here, as do the rookies who the team straight up told us would have significant roles this year (chiefly Walker and Hawkins). With Koo looking pretty sharp, Hofrichter punting well in his first game, and the coverage units doing their jobs, we’ll hopefully not have to spend much time fretting about special teams this year.

Lord knows we have enough to fret about otherwise.