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3 Up, 3 Down: An eventful day for Atlanta’s draft class

Several young players stepped into bigger roles out of the bye week, and some fared better than others.

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Desmond Ridder era didn’t get off to a clean start. In a hostile road environment, Ridder never found a comfortable rhythm and the passing game suffered mightily.

Atlanta’s 21-18 loss doesn’t fall solely at the feet of Ridder, but the rookie is going to have to be better moving forward to stave off another offseason of quarterback questions for this franchise. Overall, it was an eventful day for the Falcons’ 2022 draft class and that will likely continue in their final three games.

Keeping patience in mind with some of the young players, let’s dive into this week’s risers and fallers.

Three Up

Tyler Allgeier

Allgeier was the best player on the field Sunday. It was a true breakout performance for a young player who has steadily improved throughout his first NFL season. He looked undeniable at times with the ball in his hands, accounting for eight of the team’s first downs.

Allgeier gained 139 yards on 17 carries and scored both a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. PFF gave Allgeier a 93.5 offensive grade for his play against the Saints, which is both the best grade the rookie has earned this season and tops among all running backs in Week 15 heading into Monday night.

Lorenzo Carter

If I were to make a short list of the most consistently good players for Atlanta this season, Carter would undoubtedly be on it. He’s never been the game-changing pass rusher people hoped he’d become as a highly touted prospect at Georgia, but Carter does all of the little things to make the defense function. He can set the edge, take on multiple blocks and bend the arc as a pass rusher.

Carter earned a half-sack against New Orleans, and he came away with a fumble recovery inside of the red zone. If the price tag is right, Carter would be an excellent veteran rotation piece here as the team seeks to improve around him.

Rashaan Evans

Much of what I just wrote about Carter could also apply to Evans. He played all 55 snaps against New Orleans and has been on the field for 98.1 percent of Atlanta’s defensive plays this season. That Mykal Walker was the one whose role decreased to accommodate more playing time for Troy Andersen is a testament to the stability that Evans provides in the middle.

Evans racked up 10 tackles without a single miss, and his second sack of the season came at a crucial time to help the Falcons get back into the game. He’s only here on a one-year deal, but Evans could be another player Atlanta would be interested in bringing back for the right price.

Three Down

Desmond Ridder

All of the talk throughout the bye week about the need to be patient with Ridder is more important now than ever. I can’t imagine the difficulty of starting for the first time on the road in an environment like New Orleans in a game both teams desperately want to win. To his credit, Ridder bounced back from a lousy 0-for-4 start to the game by completing five straight passes. That speaks to his mental makeup and competitiveness.

But the execution left a lot to be desired. Ridder missed the mark entirely on a concerning number of throws, and he should have been intercepted on multiple occasions, including a potential pick-6 down in the red zone. If not for Allgeier and the run game, the Falcons may very well have been blanked offensively in this one. There was no real rhythm or timing for an offense that did a great job building momentum during drives for much of the year.

However, the bottom line is that these negatives are exactly why Ridder needs to be in there. He needs these experiences to either help him grow or provide Atlanta with the information it needs to make decisions at the game’s most important position. Here’s hoping that growth starts this week.

Drake London

On the one hand (probably the same one he uses to make filthy catches), London was very productive as the team’s top receiver for the second week in a row. On the other, his fumble late in the fourth quarter essentially ended Atlanta’s hopes for a win. Despite his size, London is a very good run-after-the-catch player. He has nice open-field vision and can beat single defenders in multiple ways in space.

But this is the second time that London has been stripped while fighting for extra yardage at a pivotal point in the game. It’s a learning moment, to be sure. Let’s just hope this time the lesson sticks.

Richie Grant

Grant’s increasing appearances on this part of the list is a troubling trend, but it’s a spot that’s warranted. He allowed the Saints to blow the game open on their second drive by attempting to undercut Taysom Hill’s deep pass to Rasheed Shaheed. When his leaping effort to knock the pass away failed, he left himself no chance to make the tackle. It was an all-or-nothing type of risk at a moment in the game when the Falcons didn’t need to take one.

rant has played more defensive snaps than anyone this season, and he has shown promise in just his second year, but he was PFF’s lowest-graded defender for Atlanta on Sunday. Maybe it’s fatigue or something else, but Grant’s last three games have not been his best.