I’ve seen a lot of nauseating Atlanta Falcons openers, but this one might just top the list. Manhandled at home by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Falcons looked unprepared and sloppy for the majority of their first game of the 2021 NFL season.
It’s a new regime, sure, but a lot of the same issues that have plagued this franchise for years reared their ugly head in the 32-6 loss against Philly.
Calvin Ridley’s opening drive
In his first action as Atlanta’s official WR1, Calvin Ridley was the key cog on the opening drive. Ridley snared three passes from quarterback Matt Ryan for 39 yards, including a clutch third-down reception to move the chains.
Unfortunately, that would be the bulk of Calvin Ridley’s contributions, as he was held to only two receptions for 12 yards for the remainder of the contest.
Grady Jarrett does Grady Jarrett things
While this team has a litany of question marks — especially after Sunday’s travesty — Grady Jarrett is not one of them. He does what he does with consistency, and against the Eagles that including chasing down Jalen Hurts to force an errant fourth-down pass in the first quarter.
A man as stocky as Jarrett should not possess the quickness that Jarrett does, but we do not question these things. We simply allow them to exist and appreciate their reality.
The Ghost of Kyle Pitts
This is ... this is a strange one. I’m not talking about Falcons’ first-round tight end Kyle Pitt’s paltry stat line (four receptions for 31 yards), but his usage. It began when Kyle Pitts was noticeably absent on third-and-goal from the five on the Falcons’ first possession.
From my vantage point, there are zero acceptable explanations as to why Pitts would not be present in the personnel package in that situation.
Head coach Arthur Smith, responsible for the offensive play-calling, did not appear to be scheming looks for Pitts — even down double-digits.
Kyle Pitts was drafted fourth overall to be a frequent contributor in Atlanta’s passing attack, and presumptively, to replace the receiving production in the wake of Julio Jones’ departure.
I’m still baffled by this.
Thrown to the wolves
I’m not picking on Jalen Mayfield here, because we all saw the trial-by-fire that was his first NFL game. Yes, it was big bad. We knew left guard would be an issue, but we did not understand how big of an issue it would be until Mayfield was thrust into starting duties and showed that he clearly wasn’t ready.
That’s on the organization and coaching, not him. The Falcons valued Mayfield enough to draft him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft because they see him as a pivotal contributor to the offensive line long-term.
This team should have addressed the left guard situation the moment Josh Andrews hit IR.
If you’re looking for a way to absolutely wreck a young player’s confidence and potentially stunt his growth at the professional level, it’s assigning him the task of blocking Fletcher Cox in his first game because you failed to recognize and act on a glaring need in the offseason.
Send help. Now.
I am picking on outside linebacker Dante Fowler, however. Atlanta’s marquee free-agent acquisition prior to the 2020 NFL season has failed to live up to expectations — or his contract — since being brought in, and he agreed to a contractual restructure based on that fact.
It was Week 1, but we saw more of the same from Fowler, who was pancaked a couple of times and just looked lifeless as a rusher. At one point he appeared to be bench-pressed by Eagles' right tackle Jordan Mailata.
The Falcons desperately need improvement from Dante Fowler, and although it’s the first week, if his performance against Philadelphia is any indication, we could be in for a long season.