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Falcons snap counts from an enjoyable win against the Saints

What did we learn from the snap counts this week?

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It’s snap counts time! The Falcons made a handful of decisions this week on offense and defense that deserve shoutouts in this week’s edition.

Going into this game, you had to figure there were significant roles coming for Qadree Ollison and Anthony Rush, given that almost everyone who is flexed to the roster from the practice squad gets real playing time for this Falcons team. You also had to figure that James Vaughters was heading for a larger role after the team promoted him to the active roster and parked Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. What we didn’t know was how snaps and production would shake out at receiver or along the defensive line, where the Falcons had Jon Bullard, John Cominsky and rookie Ta’Quon Graham inactive.

Let’s see what the snap counts tell us.


Matt Ryan: 59

Jake Matthews: 59

Jalen Mayfield: 59

Matt Hennessy: 59

Chris Lindstrom: 59

Kaleb McGary: 59

Russell Gage: 48

Tajae Sharpe: 47

Kyle Pitts: 44

Cordarrelle Patterson: 33

Mike Davis: 33

Olamide Zaccheaus: 29

Hayden Hurst: 26

Lee Smith: 17

Keith Smith: 10

Christian Blake: 3

Jason Spriggs: 3

Feleipe Franks: 2

On balance, a fine game from the offensive line, with Mayfield and Hennessy scuffling a bit, but less so than they did a week ago. McGary and Matthews were both quite good and largely handled Cam Jordan in this one, especially McGary. The line getting to mostly play together as a cohesive unit has helped a great deal, and Ryan is dealing behind these five guys right now.

As expected, the receiver pecking order with Calvin Ridley out goes Gage, Sharpe, Zaccheaus and then Blake, with Frank Darby continuing to sit for the moment. Sharpe was less involved as a receiver this time around, but happily Gage and Zaccheaus combined for 10 grabs, 122 yards and two touchdowns, both reeled in by OZ. This passing game won’t be great every single week, but with Patterson Pattersoning and at least one of Gage, Sharpe, Pitts and Zaccheaus stepping up weekly, they’re going to get the job done.

The running back rotation continues to be a pretty even split between Davis and Patterson, with Qadree Ollison somewhat surprisingly receiving zero snaps after being elevated from the practice squad this week. Nobody could run effectively against the Saints and Davis’s late fumble might give the coaching staff some pause, but I would expect things to stay even with the coaching staff valuing Davis’s physicality and blocking even if he hasn’t been as productive as Patterson.

Hurst, meanwhile, had his lowest snap count since Week 3. The Falcons reportedly were fielding calls for the veteran tight end and impending free agent but held tight to him, and he did have one nice grab that was nearly a touchdown on Sunday. Whether he ever steps into a larger role this year is an open question, but given that tight ends are having quality years against the Dallas Cowboys defense, you have to think his role will at least rebound in Week 10.

Finally, Feleipe Franks got just two snaps, and wound up running the ball twice for three yards. The Falcons clearly hope that Franks will grow into a role as a dangerous runner, passer and potentially receiver down the line, but in the here and now his plays aren’t going much of anywhere and the Falcons are leaving other contributors on the inactives list for 2-3 snaps per game on offense. We’ll see if that changes in the weeks ahead, or if the Falcons will continue to experiment until they find ways to make Franks a legitimate contributor on offense. I’d expect any sort of major gains in that regard to wait until 2022.


Erik Harris: 76

Duron Harmon: 76

A.J. Terrell: 76

Fabian Moreau: 76

Deion Jones: 76

Foye Oluokun: 76

Grady Jarrett: 57

Ade Ogundeji: 52

Jaylinn Hawkins: 48

Steven Means: 38

Marlon Davidson: 36

Brandon Copeland: 32

James Vaughters: 30

Anthony Rush: 25

Mike Pennel: 22

Tyeler Davison: 22

Avery Williams: 10

Mykal Walker: 8

These snap counts are so dramatically different than they were against Miami that you might do a couple of double takes.

Let’s start with Jaylinn Hawkins, who has effectively taken over as the team’s fifth defensive back on the field, with rookie Avery Williams taking on a much more limited number of snaps as a nickel cornerback. The Falcons seem extremely confident in Hawkins’ coverage abilities—he just keeps delivering there—and content to use three safeties knowing that he’s versatile and talented enough to do what Dean Pees needs him to do. I did not have Hawkins emerging as a borderline starter while Richie Grant languishes on the bench on my 2021 bingo card, but Hawkins deserves this.

So does James Vaughters, a favorite of outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino who has worked his way up from the practice squad. After playing reasonably well for two weeks after being flexed to the roster, the Falcons brought him to the active roster for good heading into this matchup and wound up giving him an increased role. He delivered one of the biggest plays of the game, a strip sack of Trevor Siemian that Steven Means scooped up and nearly brought to the house, and was in the backfield after Siemian more than once on Sunday. Kudos to the Falcons for giving him a shot that’s paid off, and we’ll hope he can continue to be a contributor for a pass rush that needs as many as possible.

It’s also noteworthy that Tyeler Davison’s role is shrinking. The Falcons had utilized the run stopper as a defensive tackle and nose tackle in the middle of 3-4 looks and will continue to do so, but they are also drawing down his snaps in favor of Mike Pennel and (this week, at least) practice squad elevation Anthony Rush. The fact that Rush in particular outsnapped him and played pretty well against the Saints means we may see his role shrink further in the weeks ahead, though that would depend on whether the Falcons elect to elevate Rush to the active roster and/or give Pennel more looks at the nose.

If Means has to miss any time—and hopefully that injury does not wind up being anything significant—it seems likely that Vaughters and Copeland will split time at his spot, with Ogundeji continuing to hold down the fort for Dante Fowler until he’s back. If Fowler and Means are healthy soon, it’ll be interesting to see who out of Ogundeji, Copeland and Vaughters winds up taking a backseat.

Special Teams

Mykal Walker: 22

Richie Grant: 22

Keith Smith: 19

Christian Blake: 17

Avery Williams: 17

Jaylinn Hawkins: 16

Daren Bates: 14

Brandon Copeland: 14

James Vaughters: 12

Ade Ogundeji: 11

Dustin Colquitt: 10

Josh Harris: 10

Younghoe Koo: 10

Darren Hall: 8

Frank Darby: 6

Qadree Ollison: 6

Cordarrelle Patterson: 6

Kendall Sheffield: 5

Drew Dalman: 5

Colby Gossett: 5

Olamide Zaccheaus: 5

Lee Smith: 5

Steven Means: 5

Jake Matthews: 5

Jalen Mayfield: 5

Chris Lindstrom: 5

Kaleb McGary: 5

Jason Spriggs: 5

Erik Harris: 5

Duron Harmon: 5

A.J. Terrell: 3

Marlon Davidson: 3

Anthony Rush: 3

Mike Pennel: 3

There aren’t any real surprises here. Grant will remain one of the team’s top special teamers even after his costly unnecessary roughness penalty on the sideline in this one, and Marquice Williams appears to have a crew he likes at this point.

Qadree Ollison only factored in on special teams and only for a handful of snaps, a mild surprise after the Falcons elevated him from the practice squad for this week’s game. The Falcons run game was utterly doomed and I’m not sure Ollison could’ve done anything to help that, but I wonder what the plan was for bringing him up in the first place.

The only other truly interesting note from this week is that Cam Nizialek will be able to come back soon, but Dustin Colquitt has warmed up and is doing a nice job as the team’s punter. It’ll be interesting to see if they want Nizialek back with an eye on making him the team’s long-term solution at punter, or if they’d rather roll with Colquitt given that he’s playing well now and is a known quantity. Stay tuned.