There’s no sense in spending a lot of time on prologue when the truth from Week 7 is pretty simple.
It was, by and large, a grim week to be a former Falcon. The only saving grace for this week’s review was a pair of huge games from ex-Falcons defenders. Let’s take a look.
QB Matt Ryan
Fresh off his best week of the season, Ryan had another uneven effort against the Titans, completing 75% of his passes but throwing two interceptions against one touchdown and absorbing three sacks en route to a 19-10 loss. The Colts announced they were pulling the plug on the quarterback they traded with the Falcons for back in the spring and are inserting Sam Ehlinger into the lineup “for the rest of the season,” though that is of course subject to change according to Jim Irsay’s whims, Ehlinger’s performance, and/or Frank Reich being fired.
The immediate reactions ranged from “the Colts have wronged Matt Ryan” to “finally, everyone sees that Matt Ryan has been cooked for years,” but the truth is a little more subtle than that, as it almost always is. Ryan was struggling mightily at times this year and looked like a quarterback in steep decline, and that likely taxed an offensive line that played far worse than expected. The Colts didn’t get the caliber of quarterbacking they anticipated and Ryan didn’t get the caliber of line and ground game he was expecting, and the end result is that his days as a starter may be over and the coaching staff and front office in Indianapolis may be in real trouble. That’s a sad, messy end for all parties.
WR Julio Jones
Ryan and Jones are two of this franchise’s brightest lights ever, even if a confusing number of Falcons fans are ready to pretend they never existed. I’m not enjoying see how their respective late careers are unfolding, to put it mildly.
If Ryan’s season in Indianapolis may be over on a low note, Jones’ continues...but has yet to really start, which is also a huge bummer. He’s played in just two games, back in Week 1 and Week 4, and while he appears closer to returning this week, Julio’s tremendous talent isn’t getting a chance to shine when he’s not on the field. He has four catches for 76 yards on the season, and while the Buccaneers could desperately use him, there’s no telling how many games Julio will get into.
Heavy to start to this article with these two players, I know. Let’s look at brighter notes.
LB De’Vondre Campbell
Last week I suggested that while Campbell seemed to be scuffling a bit, he would likely finish the 2022 season as one of Green Bay’s better defenders. He reminded us all of why that is in this past game, as he snagged a pick-six against the Commanders, deflected a pass, and managed an all-around dominant performance for a team that just doesn’t have a lot going on outside of him.
S Duron Harmon
Like Campbell, Harmon came into the week with some up-and-down games, especially in coverage. Also like Campbell, he left Week 7 with a dominant effort. The Raiders beat up Houston, and Harmon helped the cause with a 73 yard pick-six. That big play might be the boost he needs, but Harmon’s locked in as a starter in Las Vegas regardless.
WR Russell Gage
A little busier this week, Gage hauled in four grabs for 39 on a day where Tom Brady threw 49 passes. He’s something like the fourth or fifth option in this passing game, depending on the week, and will likely see fewer targets if and when Julio gets healthy. Gage has always been a quality blocker and reliable short-to-intermediate target, so there’s always the chance he really gets going down the line. With the Tampa Bay offense struggling and the options in front of him, though, I wouldn’t count on it.
TE Hayden Hurst
Unsurprisingly, Hurst fared well against his former team, reeling in six catches for 48 yards and drawing Timothy Horne offsides near the end of the game to cap things off. Hurst’s production is eerily similar to Gage’s thus far—Gage has 29 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown, Hurst 29 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns—but he’s functioning as Cincinnati’s top tight end and should finish the year with numbers that are close to his career marks.
LB Foye Oluokun
Twelve combined tackles once again for Oluokun, plus a tackle for a loss, but he was flagged for a roughing the passer call and has seen his effectiveness in coverage slip a bit the past couple of weeks. It’s been a productive year for the former Falcons linebacker thus far and he’s emerged as one of the vocal leaders of the Jaguars defense, but this wasn’t his finest week.
DL John Cominsky
He’s back in action, having come off of injured reserve, but his return game was a quiet one. Cominsky played just 10 snaps on defense for the Lions, but given the way that team is struggling of late, he’ll likely have a larger role soon and will hope to pick up his early season pass rushing production.
RB Mike Davis
Just five snaps for Davis, who is in a crowded backfield even with injury and seems unlikely to carve out a major role in Baltimore anytime soon.
OLB Dante Fowler Jr.
Two tackles for Fowler, who is a complementary piece on a very good Dallas defense. He’s on pace to blow by his 2021 sack total with the Falcons, but won’t be a big producer every week for the Cowboys.
P Thomas Morstead
Morstead is logging quite a bit of work for Miami, as this was the second straight week he punted six times. His average yards per punt this week were down considerably from last week, but he did land four inside the 20 yard line.
LS Josh Harris
A long snapper of some note, Harris is long snapping at a high level, as he does.
DL Deadrin Senat
Senat has carved out a rotational role for himself in Tampa Bay and had a tackle for a loss this past week. I was a Senat apologist for years here, reasoning that he was at least talented enough to play on a not-so-great defensive line, and so far he’s showing he’s at least a capable reserve for Tampa Bay.
TE Austin Hooper
Hooooop had his biggest game of the year this week, reeling in three grabs on three targets for 56 yards. He’s perfectly capable of doing that more often, so we’ll se if this sparks a larger role or if it was a one-time mini-explosion.
TE Eric Saubert
He had played a lot early in the season, but things have changed. In this game, Saubert got one target while playing just a few snaps on offense, with most of his work coming on special teams.
RB Tevin Coleman
Coleman was released by the 49ers after last week’s game and will be looking for a reserve role elsewhere. The Jets did just trade for James Robinson, but perhaps they’d still look to bring him back.
LB/S Keanu Neal
Neal was active this week, picking up a quarterback hit, a tackle for a loss, and a pass deflection while playing 82% of the defensive snaps.
Man, I wish half the guys on this list weren’t on the Buccaneers so I could enjoy them doing well.