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Falcons snap counts from a win over the Panthers in Week 14

Larger roles for Jaylinn Hawkins and Darren Hall, Hayden Hurst’s return and more.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Our snap counts this week contain a few worthwhile threads to pull on, from Hayden Hurst returning to a big role to Darren Hall and Jaylinn Hawkins being pressed into huge roles owing to injury. Let’s get to ‘em.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 69

Jake Matthews: 69

Jalen Mayfield: 69

Matt Hennessy: 69

Chris Lindstrom: 69

Kaleb McGary: 69

Russell Gage: 52

Tajae Sharpe: 52

Hayden Hurst: 43

Mike Davis: 39

Kyle Pitts: 37

Lee Smith: 34

Cordarrelle Patterson: 34

Olamide Zaccheaus: 29

Keith Smith: 17

Qadree Ollison: 6

Christian Blake: 2


Roles are pretty well-defined at this point in the season, so there are only a couple of small surprises here.

The first is that the Falcons killed the Drew Dalman experiment this week. After a pair of botched snaps and some rough stretches blocking last week, Arthur Smith’s dream of a center rotation is at least temporarily on hold, as Hennessy played every snap. Dalman may factor into the center or left guard competition in 2022, but it didn’t take much to derail this particular train in 2021.

Hurst’s return proved to be impactful, as he out-snapped Kyle Pitts, reeled in a touchdown and chipped in as a blocker. With a run-heavy gameplan it appears the Falcons are content to give Hurst and Lee Smith a lot of action, but Pitts still found a way to contribute on more limited snaps. The situation is similar to what the Falcons regularly do with Patterson and Davis, where Davis regularly out-snaps Patterson owing to the value this team places on his blocking and receiving capabilities even though Patterson obviously offers explosiveness Davis does not. If the Falcons continue to lean heavily on the run, this probably won’t be the last time you see more Hurst than Pitts.

This team’s trust in Tajae Sharpe is evident. He’s a perfectly capable fourth or fifth receiver in this offense, but the fact that he’s being asked to be the #2 and play all game is indicative of how badly this team needs to upgrade at receiver, by hopefully bringing back Calvin Ridley and drafting a new #2. I could see Sharpe returning in a reserve role next year, where his sure hands and ability to block will be useful, but obviously this team’s receiver corps needs to be a focus this offseason.

Finally, if Ollison is in the game, I guess you can expect him to run the ball. He had five carries on just six snaps, and he was productive minus that extremely unfortunate fumble.

Defense

Jaylinn Hawkins: 64

Duron Harmon: 64

A.J. Terrell: 64

Foye Oluokun: 64

Deion Jones: 64

Darren Hall: 51

Grady Jarrett: 51

Steven Means: 47

Dante Fowler: 32

Brandon Copeland: 24

Anthony Rush: 24

Ta’Quon Graham: 21

Marlon Davidson: 20

James Vaughters: 17

Mike Pennel: 14

John Cominsky: 8

Erik Harris: 6

Mykal Walker: 5


There are some interesting notes here. With Richie Grant out and Erik Harris hurt, Jaylinn Hawkins inevitably played every single snap. He took a ride in the end zone with Cam Newton, but otherwise played quite well. Darren Hall was the other recipient of snaps as the nickel back as his role keeps growing, and while he has had his rougher moments in coverage the past two weeks, his physicality and aggressive play stands out. This team getting a longer look at Hawkins and Hall in particular and knowing they can play helps them figure out this secondary in 2022, and I’ve been encouraged with both players even if they’ve been pressed into extended action somewhat by circumstance.

Walker’s huge play on just five snaps was awesome and critical to the outcome, but the Falcons probably aren’t going to find him more playing time unless Oluokun or Jones get hurt. The strides he appears to be making and the coaching staff’s confidence in him could matter more in 2022, when Oluokun or Jones could be headed elsewhere via free agency or trade, respectively.

This team is not shy about shaking up their rotations at outside linebacker and along the defensive line. Mike Pennel had been inactive for weeks but was active in this one with Tyeler Davison parked, and Vaughters was back out there with Ade Ogundeji out with an injury. Chances are next week Pees will park Anthony Rush and have Tyeler Davison and Mike Pennel working for reasons that are only known to him, but so long as the defense doesn’t fall apart, we’ll just keep seeing that wheel spin.

John Cominsky finally got into a game! The Falcons have been transitioning him back to outside linebacker throughout the season and he looked pretty good in limited action, making a couple of tackles, one of them a tackle for a loss. Cominsky isn’t likely to play a ton until next year, but the hope will be that a long season of development for him will pay off in terms of role and impact next season.

Special Teams

Shawn Williams: 18

James Vaughters: 16

Avery Williams: 16

Jaylinn Hawkins: 15

Mykal Walker: 15

Keith Smith: 15

Frank Darby: 13

Emmanuel Ellerbee: 12

Younghoe Koo: 12

Duron Harmon: 9

Darren Hall: 9

Brandon Copeland: 9

Qadree Ollison: 9

Josh Harris: 7

Kendall Sheffield: 7

Thomas Morstead: 7

Olamide Zaccheaus: 6

Steven Means: 5

Kaleb McGary: 5

Jake Matthews: 5

Jalen Mayfield: 5

Chris Lindstrom: 5

Lee Smith: 5

Jason Spriggs: 5

Colby Gossett: 5

Drew Dalman: 5

A.J. Terrell: 3

Anthony Rush: 3

Ta’Quon Graham: 3

Marlon Davidson: 3

Foye Oluokun: 1


Man, Thomas Morstead has been an impactful addition. His two punts went 110 yards, and one of them rolled nicely to force Carolina to start from their own three yard line thanks to a heads up play by Kendall Sheffield, and that drive ended with the Mykal Walker pick six. I’d welcome him back with open arms next year.

Avery Williams is someone I was all in on as this team’s returner, and nothing I’ve seen of late has discouraged me from thinking he should handle kick and punt returns for years to come. His 38 yard return ahead of the final drive was his lone opportunity to make something happen and he took full advantage, setting the Falcons up with solid field position at a critical moment.

The Falcons have a handful of players who are effectively just slotting in at special teams, including Sheffield, who is behind seemingly every other cornerback on the roster in the pecking order on defense. It bodes well for Shawn Williams and Emmanuel Ellerbee that Marquice Williams trusts them with large roles on special teams given that deep reserve safety and linebacker roles figure to be up for grabs next year, and Williams was called up just to play the most special teams snaps of anyone on the roster this week.