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Falcons snap counts from another loss to the Buccaneers

Steven Means came back, Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy are still splitting snaps, and Avery Williams is handling returns.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Falcons lost to the Buccaneers for many reasons, but the big ones are simple: Too many mistakes for a roster that just isn’t as talented and well-coached as the one in Tampa Bay.

Snap counts won’t tell the story of this loss, unless you consider a reminder of who is on the roster to be illuminating. We’ll still take a look to see what we can glean from this week’s counts.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 71

Jake Matthews: 71

Jalen Mayfield: 71

Chris Lindstrom: 71

Kaleb McGary: 71

Kyle Pitts: 67

Tajae Sharpe: 54

Russell Gage: 53

Matt Hennessy: 45

Olamide Zaccheaus: 43

Mike Davis: 38

Cordarrelle Patterson: 34

Drew Dalman: 26

Keith Smith: 21

Lee Smith: 16

Qadree Ollison: 13

Parker Hesse: 12

Colby Gossett: 3

Jason Spriggs: 1

Christian Blake: 1


There aren’t really any surprises in these snap counts. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson continue to split snaps, and the last two weeks the run game has finally gotten going in a noticeable and meaningful way, which was particularly impressive against Tampa Bay. It’ll be worth watching whether they can keep that up over the final five weeks, and what that might mean for the offense against lesser opponents.

The Falcons offensive line continues to be a problem in pass protection. The rotation last week saw Hennessy doing a fine job and Dalman doing a very good one, but this week Dalman had two botched snaps and a shakier day in pass protection. I think the Falcons will stick with this rotation—they’re stubborn about these things and clearly want to see both players—so we’ll have to hope Dalman bounces back against the Panthers.

Mayfield has played 99% of the offensive snaps in the team’s 12 games at this point, and there’s absolutely no sign the Falcons are going to go away from him for even a moment despite his ongoing struggles. The hope all along was that by throwing Mayfield into the fire and letting him learn on the job, he’d be ready to step into 2022 as a quality starting guard. We haven’t seen any kind of sustained progress that would indicate that’s going to happen, but Atlanta’s determined to clock a full season, see where Mayfield settles out, and then either work on building him up or finding his replacement this offseason. Unfortunately, his struggles in the here and now are “helping” to keep this passing game from taking off, so the Falcons have to hope this is all worthwhile.

Pressure was a bigger factor than a lack of quality play from receivers on Sunday, but the Falcons once again got an inconsistent day out of pass catchers not named Russell Gage and Mike Davis. This team isn’t going to dig into a bag of tricks and come up with a receiver who can lift this offense all by himself, obviously, and everyone from the coaching staff to Matt Ryan to the offensive line to the pass catchers share blame for the fact that this has become a pretty unremarkable attack. I hate to end this part of the snap counts on a grim note, but there just doesn’t appear to be any sort of real answer coming here.

Defense

A.J. Terrell: 70

Foye Oluokun: 70

Deion Jones: 69

Duron Harmon: 65

Fabian Moreau: 62

Erik Harris: 60

Grady Jarrett: 50

Darren Hall: 44

Steven Means: 43

Brandon Copeland: 37

Dante Fowler: 33

Ade Ogundeji: 27

Tyeler Davison: 26

Richie Grant: 24

Ta’Quon Graham: 22

Marlon Davidson: 22

Anthony Rush: 20

Jaylinn Hawkins: 15

Mykal Walker: 6

Avery Williams: 5


The thing that jumped out at me most here was Darren Hall’s playing time, which skyrocketed this week. Injuries were stacking up for this team, but Hall’s earned additional playing time, and Pro Football Reference still has him sitting at just six receptions allowed on the year and just 11 yards after the catch. A sure tackler and improving player overall, Hall is one to watch as the season winds down, because he could be building momentum for a starting job in 2022 when Isaiah Oliver, Fabian Moreau and others are free agents.

Something Arthur Smith was careful to note after the game is that the Buccaneers have a terrific offensive line, which is absolutely true. Are they so good that the Falcons should have generated just two pressures all day against an ancient Tom Brady? No, and the return of Steven Means and Dante Fowler settling in did nothing for this team this week on that front. Atlanta’s pass rush isn’t salvageable this year even if they’ll have better performances against weaker offenses, and improving it by scheme, personnel improvements and hopefully growth from the likes of Ogundeji, Graham and others has to be a key focus of 2022.

One surprise: Jaylinn Hawkins had been playing quite well before he got hurt, and now he appears to have fallen to the bottom of the pecking order at safety. I have a hard time understanding why that might be, given that Atlanta is not getting consistently quality play out of any other safety on the roster at the moment, even if I’m happy to see more Richie Grant even so.

Special Teams

Keith Smith: 18

Jaylinn Hawkins: 18

Mykal Walker: 18

Avery Williams: 18

Emmanuel Ellerbee: 18

Brandon Copeland: 16

Richie Grant: 16

Frank Darby: 15

Olamide Zaccheaus: 13

Erik Harris: 12

Parker Hesse: 11

Ade Ogundeji: 10

Feleipe Franks: 10

Josh Harris: 8

Thomas Morstead: 8

Darren Hall: 7

Kendall Sheffield: 7

Younghoe Koo: 7

Steven Means: 6

Ta’Quon Graham: 5

Marlon Davidson: 5

Anthony Rush: 5

A.J. Terrell: 4

Duron Harmon: 4

Chris Lindstrom: 3

Kaleb McGary: 3

Jalen Mayfield: 3

Jake Matthews: 3

Drew Dalman: 3

Lee Smith: 3

Colby Gossett: 3

Jason Spriggs: 3

Qadree Ollison: 2

Dante Fowler: 1


I’m wondering if the Falcons will have Patterson stick to offense the rest of the way given his evident value there, because this is the second week in a row where they handed the keys to Avery Williams on returns. I imagine that will continue, but if the Falcons are hellbent on Cordarrelle Patterson returning in 2022, does he also return to returning kicks? I know that’s not a question with an immediate answer, but it’s interesting to me.

The Falcons have gotten some terrific special teams tackling out of Mykal Walker, Keith Smith and Olamide Zaccheaus this year, with Zaccheaus delivering a killer one on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Walker and Smith are under contract next year and should be core special teamers again, but getting Zaccheaus back in the fold for his value here and as the team’s fourth or fifth receiver in a healthier corps will be worthwhile, too.

Finally, Morstead continues to do good work. Four of his five punts once again landed inside the Tampa Bay 20, and good coverage from the Falcons limited the Buccaneers to a pair of punt returns for just 7 yards. If the defense had any luck stopping the Tampa Bay offense in this one, we’d be applauding that work, and Morstead is locked in as the team’s punter the rest of the way.