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Falcons snap counts from a victory against the Jaguars

Big roles for some unexpected faces this week.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Beating the Jaguars is a low bar to clear, but after the past two weeks, there was no bar you could feel totally comfortable the Falcons were going to be able to get over. Happily, they did so.

What’s most interesting to me is how they got there. We saw a lot of playing time for rookies and players who had smaller roles in prior weeks, which could be a sign of things to come for this team as they continue to tinker with a creaky roster. That, of course, means it’s time to dive headfirst into the snap counts.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 60

Jake Matthews: 60

Jalen Mayfield: 60

Chris Lindstrom: 60

Kaleb McGary: 60

Kyle Pitts: 47

Russell Gage: 46

Tajae Sharpe: 46

Matt Hennessy: 40

Olamide Zaccheaus: 30

Mike Davis: 30

Cordarrelle Patterson: 29

Lee Smith: 29

Parker Hesse: 23

Drew Dalman: 20

Keith Smith: 13

Wayne Gallman: 5

Christian Blake: 2


We have to start with the center rotation, right? The Falcons gave a clean 40/20 snap split to Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman, a move Arthur Smith said had been planned. The wisdom tends to be that you want to maintain continuity on your line, and the Falcons had zealously done so through tough spots all season, rolling out the same starting five whenever they could. It feels noteworthy that they gave Dalman reps because it is.

Hennessy scuffled early, but both players did pretty well in this one, with Dalman adding a noticeable spark as a run blocker. The Falcons apparently plan to continue to rotate the two, which isn’t the kind of thing I want to see continue indefinitely but will give them a good look at both players and an opportunity to tailor the interior of the line to the matchup a bit. I do wonder if this suggests Drew Dalman is going to compete outright for the center job after Hennessy had it sewn up this past summer, but that’s a little ways away.

Otherwise, there weren’t a ton of surprises on this side of the ball, with a familiar cast of characters getting reps at receiver and tight end and...not doing much with their opportunities. The Falcons have effectively made Patterson their lead back, but he’s still being out-snapped by Mike Davis, who is getting extensive run as a blocker and is proving to be a useful pass catcher as well. Given the team’s struggles at receiver, I remain surprised that we’re not seeing a little more of Frank Darby, because nearly every other rookie is getting real run at this point in the season.

The offense is frighteningly dependent on Cordarrelle Patterson, and there’s no shake up to personnel that can change that minus the return of Calvin Ridley, which is uncertain for 2021. We’ll just have to hope Atlanta can get more out of its supporting cast and Matt Ryan against the Buccaneers, and that the Dalman/Hennessy experiment works well.

Defense

Fabian Moreau: 73

Duron Harmon: 72

Mykal Walker: 72

Foye Oluokun: 71

A.J. Terrell: 67

Erik Harris: 63

Grady Jarrett: 62

Brandon Copeland: 40

Dante Fowler: 40

Ade Ogundeji: 38

Tyeler Davison: 33

Richie Grant: 32

James Vaughters: 26

Darren Hall: 26

Marlon Davidson: 24

Ta’Quon Graham: 21

Anthony Rush: 19

Jaylinn Hawkins: 11

Emmanuel Ellerbee: 7

Chris Williamson: 4


Every rookie received double digit snaps this week except Avery Williams, who is chiefly playing special teams now. That’s a positive, and everyone who played contributed in some fashion.

Still, we should start with Mykal Walker, who was pressed into action with Deion Jones out and played nearly every snap. He missed a pair of tackles in this one that I counted, but also had a pass deflection and turned in a decent day in extended action. With Foye Oluokun heading to free agency and Deion Jones’ contract being a significant one, Walker’s ability to step in and potentially start down the line could be important for this team, so this kind of action is welcome so the coaching staff can get a better feel for how comfortable they are with that idea.

Back to the rookies. Both Richie Grant and Darren Hall had big moments in this one, and I’ve been genuinely impressed with Hall’s coverage ability and aggressiveness the past couple of weeks against the Patriots and Jaguars. The physicality both players bring to the table is something this secondary badly needs, and while it’s taken time for the coaching staff to trust them with real roles, it’s impossible not to be encouraged by how they’re faring.

Ta’Quon Graham and Ade Ogundeji continue to do fine work. Ogundeji isn’t making huge strides as a pass rusher that I can see, so we’ll have to hope that happens before the 2022 season. He’s still a solid piece of the rotation at outside linebacker, while Graham was in on Dante Fowler’s sack yesterday and looks like he’ll be a consistently disruptive presence on the line sooner than later. Getting all four of these players—plus Williams, eventually—to be solid pieces of this defense would be a big win for the Falcons and the front office.

Finally, a couple of other notes about playing time. Jaylinn Hawkins was active but was eased back in with just 11 snaps, and I’d expect to see much more of him against Tampa Bay when his coverage skills and ball hawking nature will come in handy. Davison and Davidson were active again after a week on the inactive list and Davidson contributed with a fumble recovery, which was nice to see, so this team isn’t going to be shy about rotating through their bigs on the defensive line. Anthony Rush only played 19 snaps but is one of this team’s most consistently effective run defenders and forced a fumble, so he should be a mainstay along this line going forward.

Special Teams

Richie Grant: 18

Keith Smith: 16

Jaylinn Hawkins: 13

Avery Williams: 13

Frank Darby: 13

Emmanuel Ellerbee: 13

Olamide Zaccheaus: 12

Brandon Copeland: 11

Dorian Etheridge: 11

Ade Ogundeji: 10

James Vaughters: 10

Josh Harris: 9

Thomas Morstead: 9

Erik Harris: 9

Younghoe Koo: 8

Feleipe Franks: 8

Darren Hall: 7

Mykal Walker: 5

Duron Harmon: 4

Jason Spriggs: 4

Colby Gossett: 4

Lee Smith: 4

Drew Dalman: 4

Jake Matthews: 4

Jalen Mayfield: 4

Chris Lindstrom: 4

Kaleb McGary: 4

Chris Williamson: 3

A.J. Terrell: 2

Marlon Davidson: 2

Anthony Rush: 2

Ta’Quon Graham: 2


Thomas Morstead did nice work in his first game with the Falcons, landing four of his five punts inside the Jacksonville 15, and that’s probably enough for him to keep the role. Atlanta could surprise and turn back to Dustin Colquitt, but Morstead’s ability is not really in question and the Falcons have been continuously striving to update at the position.

Avery Williams took both returner roles again this week with Cordarrelle Patterson sticking to a major role on offense, and he once again looked good as a kick returner. It’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons consider maintaining that the rest of the way with Patterson being the offense’s most important player at the moment, and whether a Patterson return in 2022 would come with him handling kickoff returns or if he would give those duties over to Williams. Stay tuned there.