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Falcons snap counts and notes for the season finale

Let’s talk future while we wince at these snap counts.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Falcons finally, mercifully closed out their 2020 season against Tampa Bay. This was largely a forgettable game, so our snap counts today are a little future-focused so we don’t have to think too much about a game we’ll leave behind us soon enough.

Snap counts: They’re over for this year!

Offense

Matt Ryan: 72

Jake Matthews: 72

James Carpenter: 72

Matt Hennessy: 72

Chris Lindstrom: 72

Kaleb McGary: 72

Calvin Ridley: 65

Russell Gage: 61

Hayden Hurst: 49

Luke Stocker: 44

Laquon Treadwell: 35

Brian Hill: 31

Todd Gurley: 28

Keith Smith: 13

Ito Smith: 13

Christian Blake: 11

Matt Gono: 6

Jaeden Graham: 4


This was an important game for Hennessy, who should be the early favorite to step in at center next year but will need a coaching staff that likes him and doesn’t have their own guy in mind. He was solid against a tough Buccaneers front four, especially as the game went on, and has shown enough to at least be in the mix for the one-to-two open interior offensive line jobs. It’s unclear whether Carpenter will be back at his current price point, given that he’s been injured and ineffective for stretches of the past two seasons, or the Falcons will once again turn to the draft or free agency to plug a hole.

The play of Ridley and Gage at the end of the year in particular was hugely encouraging. Ridley had a quieter game in Week 17 but had a great season, and Gage more than stepped into the role vacated by Mohamed Sanu and figures to be a player a new staff will be comfortable installing as the third receiver again. There are questions about Julio Jones’ immediate future with this team that may cause them to dip into the draft, but between Ridley, Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, and affordable potential re-signings like Laquon Treadwell and Brandon Powell, the Falcons can put together a good group on the cheap for one season.

Running back was again somewhat of a mess. For the first time in many weeks, Brian Hill seized the largest snap count and largest role in this offense and played quite well, making a case for a re-signing if the next regime is interested in his well-balanced skill set. Ito Smith, meanwhile, surprisingly faded to limited snaps in this one. Right now, only Ito and Qadree Ollison are under contract, and even if Hill comes back, the Falcons are a virtual slam dunk to draft a new featured back this April.

Finally, Hurst bears mentioning. Only nine tight ends finished with more receptions, only 13 with more yardage, and only six finished with more touchdowns, meaning he was actually one of the more productive tight ends in the league overall. It still felt like he disappeared for weeks on end and, despite Koetter’s stated desire to get him involved downfield, was rarely utilized that way. It was a solid first season and Hurst is likely to be the starter next year, but it’ll be interesting to see if his role can expand with a new offensive mind at the helm.

We’ll get into Matt Ryan’s future a little later, but suffice to say he played well enough on balance this year, especially in Dirk Koetter’s offense, that the team should feel comfortable moving forward with him if the new regime wants to. He actually had his lowest interception total ever with Dirk Koetter, incredibly.


Defense

Deion Jones: 67

Foye Oluoun: 67

Isaiah Oliver: 60

A.J. Terrell: 59

Keanu Neal: 59

Kendall Sheffield: 55

Steven Means: 52

Dante Fowler Jr.: 51

Ricardo Allen: 45

Tyeler Davison: 40

John Cominsky: 39

Sharrod Neasman: 30

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 28

Grady Jarrett: 21

Allen Bailey: 19

Mykal Walker: 16

Marlon Davidson: 15

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 11

Charles Harris: 3


Virtually nobody covered themselves in glory against Tampa Bay. The loss of Jarrett obviously hurt he defense, but the Buccaneers just have this defense’s number and they killed Atlanta both times out in 2020. This isn’t a praise-filled writeup, in other words.

Let’s start with what we know. We know that A.J. Terrell will be back and a starter at cornerback, and either Isaiah Oliver or Kendall Sheffield will also have a major role, though perhaps not both. Atlanta has multiple young cornerbacks but probably is not going to start all three of them next year, as Oliver and Sheffield still have major holes in their respective games.

The safety position is very open. The Falcons may or may not bring back Allen at his current price poitn, and Jaylinn Hawkins is the only other safety under contract next year. The Falcons will need to decide whether Keanu Neal should return and how much they want to overhaul that particular position, on a sliding scale between “Allen and Neal are back!” to “two entirely new starters.”

There are even bigger questions along the defensive line. While the Falcons are pretty well set at linebacker next year minus some depth and/or developmental options, given the presence of Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun and Mykal Walker there. The defensive line, meanwhile, has Grady Jarret, Marlon Davidson and John Cominsky at defensive tackle and not much else. That’s one elite player and a couple of promising ones, and virtually nothing at defensive end, especially with Dante Fowler Jr. not a lock to return. Getting quality pass rushers and rebuilding that line is maybe the priority of the offseason for the new regime, given that it has been an outstanding need for many years now. You can probably bet that guys like Bailey and Harris, who barely have had roles late, won’t be back.

Special Teams

Sharrod Neasman: 23

Keith Smith: 15

Edmond Robinson: 15

LaRoy Reynolds: 15

Mykal Walker: 14

Luke Stocker: 14

Jaylinn Hawkins: 14

John Cominsky: 13

Sterling Hofrichter: 10

Christian Blake: 9

Deion Jones: 8

A.J. Terrell: 8

Kendall Sheffield: 8

Steven Means; 8

Tyeler Davison: 8

Allen Bailey: 8

Laquon Treadwell: 8

Brian Hill: 8

Chris Rowland: 8

Younghoe Koo: 7

Blidi Wreh-WIlson: 6

Charles Harris: 6

Josh Harris: 6

Marlon Davidson: 5

James Carpenter: 5

Kaleb McGary: 5

Jake Matthews: 5

Chris Lindstrom: 5

Matt Gono: 5

Justin McCray: 5

Grady Jarrett: 3

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 1


The Falcons have their kicker and punter of the future, a bright note in a lost season. Hofricther had a fine first season and Koo had one of the best seasons in franchise history, making him an obvious priority re-signing for Atlanta.

Chris Rowland, meanwhile, finally had a chance to make his case to be this team’s returner next year, and had two quality returns in this one. Whether he gets serious consideration for that role remains an open question, but I’m glad he at least got one opportunity to show his value.

Otherwise, the Falcons just have decisions to make on the futures of some core special teamers who have expiring contracts. Sharrod Neasman, LaRoy Reynolds, Edmond Robinson and Luke Stocker have all been critical pieces all year long, but it’s unclear whether anyone besides Neasman (a useful safety, as well) and Stocker (a blocking tight end on a team that might need one) will be back.

There’s so much change to come. Suffice to say these snap counts will look very different a year from now.