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Falcons snap counts from the first week’s loss to the Eagles

Who was responsible for that mess? We already know, but snap counts color in the edges.

Philadelphia Eagles v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

This week’s snap counts are the first of the Arthur Smith era in Atlanta, but they’re not quite as exciting as they could be given that the Falcons got absolutely blasted off the field by the Eagles. You’re not going to see anything in the snap counts that makes you think “if only we had seen more Tajae Sharpe, things would have been different.”

That said, there’s always something to learn about how this team is deploying its players and the actual pecking order on the roster, and for that reason alone it’s worth going through the exercise. Here are your snap counts for Week 1 and a few notes.

Offense

Kaleb McGary: 72 (100%)

Jake Matthews: 70

Chris Lindstrom: 70

Matt Hennessy: 70

Matt Ryan: 70

Jalen Mayfield: 65

Calvin Ridley: 61

Mike Davis: 54

Kyle Pitts: 49

Russell Gage: 49

Hayden Hurst: 43

Cordarrelle Patterson: 24

Keith Smith: 21

Lee Smith: 21

Olamide Zaccheaus: 19

Tajae Sharpe: 10

Drew Dalman: 9

Christian Blake: 5

Parker Hessee: 4

Jason Spriggs: 2

Colby Gossett: 2

Josh Rosen: 2


There weren’t a lot of surprises here in terms of playing time. You got a glimpse of some backup linemen and Josh Rosen late in the game to spare Matt Ryan and company one final bit of punishment, but otherwise things flowed more or less as you’d expect.

Jalen Mayfield was the starter, giving way to Drew Dalman for a short while with an injury scare, and the rest of the offensive line...lined...up the way we expected. Whether Mayfield keeps his job after a brutal first week is a little up in the air—I’d expect him to, but perhaps on a shorter leash—but the rest of this line should remain the same heading into Week 2.

Calvin Ridley was the top receiver, Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst were close to the same number of snaps, and Russell Gage served as the #2 receiver. Keith Smith had a larger role than I would have anticipated—and was actually a piece of the passing attack—but that was it for major surprises.

Unless you count Cordarrelle Patterson, that is. He only played a third of the snaps, about what you’d expect for a backup running back, but he was dynamic in those snaps and could steal a few more snaps in Week 2 against Tampa Bay. The Falcons appear content, at least for the moment, to roll with Davis, Patterson and Smith as their three backs, and while the entire offense went into the toilet in the second half that seems like a workable trio.

The surprise, of course, is just how anemic this offense was. The offensive line was a limiting factor that I don’t want to downplay, but you also had a gameplan that couldn’t get the ball out quickly enough, Ryan being hounded by the pass rush and drops that you can probably pin a bit on both quarterback and receiver. It was truly the worst case scenario for this offense after the first couple of drives, and I’m comfortable saying they won’t look this bad that often in 2021. They’ll also dance with the ones who brought them, so aside from maybe left guard, don’t expect any near-term lineup shakeups.

Defense

Deion Jones: 71

Foye Oluokun: 71

A.J. Terrell: 68

Erik Harris: 65

Fabian Moreau: 65

Steven Means: 59

Duron Harmon: 56

Isaiah Oliver: 54

Dante Fowler: 47

Tyeler Davison: 40

Jon Bullard: 27

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 25

Marlon Davidson: 21

Ade Ogundeji: 16

Jaylinn Hawkins: 15

T.J. Green: 9

Richie Grant: 6

James Vaughters: 6

Mykal Walker: 4

John Cominsky: 2


There were a few small surprises on this side of the ball. Means played nearly 85% of the defensive snaps, a higher percentage than he managed at any point in 2020 as a de facto starter for the Falcons. The value Means gives you is solid all-around play and the durability to take a major share of the snaps, but with Brandon Copeland back and Means not generating any pressure in the first game against the Eagles, I think he probably hit his season high in this game.

Frankly, Davidson, Tuioti-Mariner, Bullard and Cominsky all probably will carve out larger roles as time goes on at their respective positions, with Cominsky being an unexpected complete non-factor in this one. The Eagles have a very good offensive line, but so do the Buccaneers, and the team’s heavy snap counts for established veterans like Means, Fowler and Davison up front didn’t give them much punch. They’ll need more against Tampa Bay.

Hawkins getting more playing time than Grant was another small surprise, though the Falcons have certainly acted as if they were going to bring their prized rookie along slowly and have continued to do so. In general, this defense leaned heavily on veterans, and I don’t know if we have enough data to say that’s a bad decision after one uneven game. I will be interested to see if the team switches up their line and linebacker rotations in response to a pass rush that just couldn’t get home against Jalen Hurts, or if they’ll chalk that up to Hurts’ mobility and a strong Eagles gameplan and try to destroy Tom Brady with the same group.

Special Teams

Jaylinn Hawkins: 24

Richie Grant: 24

Mykal Walker: 24

Dorian Etheridge: 21

Keith Smith: 18

John Cominsky: 18

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 16

Avery Williams: 15

Isaiah Oliver: 13

Cam Nizialek: 11

Cordarrelle Patterson: 11

Olamide Zaccheaus: 11

Erik Harris: 9

Josh Harris: 8

Parker Hesse: 6

A.J. Terrell: 6

Steven Means: 6

Grady Jarrett: 5

Jon Bullard: 5

Marlon Davidson: 5

Fabian Moreau: 4

T.J. Green: 3

James Vaughters: 3

Kaleb McGary: 2

Jake Matthews: 2

Chris Lindstrom: 2

Jalen Mayfield: 2

Lee Smith: 2

Hayden Hurst: 2

Drew Dalman: 2

Christian Blake: 2

Jason Spriggs: 2

Younghoe Koo: 2


It’s noteworthy that Hawkins, drafted ostensibly with an eye on special teams a year ago, joins Grant and Mykal Walker in playing more special teams snaps than anyone else. Grant was going to be counted on given his strong special teams play in preseason and his lack of a massive role on defense to start the year, but Hawkins and Walker being critical pieces is good to see.

Many of the names on here are otherwise familiar except for rookie Dorian Etheridge, who figures to hold on to his spot if he’s a major contributor as well. Patterson was great as a back but showed little as a returner in this one, with his sole attempt not going very far, but Avery Williams showed a little wiggle and determination in his punt returns and it feels like the team’s in very good hands with both of those guys.

One other note: Cameron Nizialek is indeed handling kickoffs in addition to punting duties, leaving Koo free to focus on hammering home field goal tries.