Depth Chart Snapshot and 2022 Implications

Considering that the draft is over and we have the large majority of the team we will go into the 2022 season with, I figured I would take this time to use the current depth chart and use this "snapshot" of the team to look into what we will do with each side of the ball and how it is different from last season. Naturally there is a healthy amount of insinuation involved with this, but hopefully we can start to wrap our heads around what will define this new look 2022 Atlanta Falcons team.


Now, to begin with, we will look at the offense. As has been pointed out by this site, Arthur Smith brought an incredibly varied offensive scheme to the offense last year. His player formations and offensive scheme was all over the place. Now part of that is how Smith operates. He has the offensive know-how to mix things up from week to week and ensure that he is capitalizing on the talent he has at his disposal. The other part of that was his depleted talent level available to him. To me, the loss of Ridley was the straw that broke the camels back last season. It forced him to gameplan his rookie tight end as the number one receiver, and minimize the need for his remaining wide receivers, while also having an underperforming running back. Luckily for him Patterson far outplayed expectations and it gave him a vitally important piece to use out of the backfield, to take the pressure off of Ryan and Pitts. With an offensive line that was incredibly inconsistent from week to week, Smith was forced to take every week as a unique challenge. He couldn't enforce any specific brand of football. He couldn't start to play what we would consider Falcon football. He played reactionary football, that capitalized on our strengths while attempting to attack their weaknesses. It worked seven times. Its honestly a miracle he got that many wins out of what he had to work with.

I expect this to change this upcoming season. The 2022 Atlanta Falcons offense is more tailor-made for Smith himself. I expect Smith to use his offensive mind to stay sharp with the gameplan week to week, but I think he attempts to go from reactionary football, to proactive football. What that means for fans, is to watch out for fewer formation variations. With Pitts, London, and more talent coming out of the backfield, we should expect to see more 12, 13, 21, and 22 personnel formations (link to help visualize what these formations look like here). These offensive formations will capitalize on our strengths. We will use the depth at TE more. Rely on the FB position less, and keep the maximum amount of talent on the field as long as possible for the QB to utilize when in passing situations. The RB corps should be used more extensively with each back having a specific role carved out for them. This should take the pressure off of Patterson having to float the entire backfield by himself, and thus keeping him from wearing down by the end of the year. We should expect to see the RPO style offense incorporated into the gameplan more this year. I would expect a huge uptick in this from last year. RPO's are best defended with man coverage, but getting London, Pitts, and Patterson into man coverage could be very disadvantageous for a defense. Which could lead to a much more dynamic offense than years past. I expect Smith to consider the 12 personnel offense as the our "base" offense. Therefore our base offense starting group will be:

QB1- Marcus Mariota

RB1- Damien Williams

WR1- Drake London

TE1- Kyle Pitts

LT- Jake Matthews

LG- Jalen Mayfield

C- Matt Hennessey

RG- Chris Lindstrom

RT- Kaleb McGary

TE2- Anthony Firkser

WR2- Auden Tate


For defense, we have Dean Pees and his legendary 3-4 Hybrid defense. While there is plenty of controversy about who should start and where, ultimately the changes that have been made to this side of the ball are incredibly intriguing. I still expect changes to happen to the personnel on this side of the ball in particular, but the direction we are headed with the scheme should be apparent at this point. Last year, Dean Pees learned a hard lesson about the Atlanta Falcons defense. Its one that every single fan has known for the past decade. The Atlanta Falcons defense can't touch a QB outside of their own locker room. Pees was open with the struggles and was surprisingly transparent about how he was dealing with overcoming them. First, he quickly reverted to what the previous coaching staff did. He simply could not call plays that hung his secondary out to dry. He had to call coverage plays that would hopefully buy the front seven enough time to get to the QB. It rarely did. It did however have the first defense in NFL history to not allow a single play of over forty yards. That says two things. First, our front seven needed a retool. Second, our secondary was actually really really good. The coaching staff was on the right track with what they were doing there. This offseason they expanded on that and added even more pieces to the backend, and gave this defense an obvious strength. While there has been a shockingly low amount of turnover in the trenches, the front seven has definitely seen a fair amount of change.

In 2022 the hybrid defense that we run should see an increase in two notable areas. First, we should see more turnovers. Just like in 2016, when our defense wasn't great at getting to the QB, but we did get good turnovers at a decent rate. That should help us stop an opposing offense without having to get to the QB, and flip momentum quickly. I did a fanpost that asked the question of which is more important interceptions or sacks at one point. The answer was less concrete than one would like, but the evidence pointed to interceptions being more useful. I expect Pees already knows this, and is planning on coaching the secondary to be more capable of interceptions rather than deflections. Second, we should see a small uptick in sacks. While the trenches hasn't seen much change yet, the playmakers behind them have. Having an all new LB corps backing up the front 3 or 4 should pay dividends. The combination of Ebikitie, Evans, Jones, and Carter should be league average at worst in both coverage and blitzing. This should also help the turnovers, as simply increasing the pressure that an opposing QB is facing will result in more erroneous throws. Even in the Nickle, which we run the majority of the time, we will have Evans and either Jones, Walker, or Anderson on the field who can all cover fairly well. Evans and Anderson both have the ability to blitz up the middle or around the edge fairly well too, so we can pressure from a variety of places, which is different than last year. The 2021 Falcons essentially abandoned the A-gap blitz, and instead decided to drop the ILB's into coverage in an attempt to keep plays in front of them. I expect that A-gap to get more use this year, and also Pees to use those stunts and exotic blitz packages going. With the back end of the defense having a group of players who have spent at least one year in this scheme before, I feel Pees is more comfortable hanging them out to dry more often. Using the 3-4 front as our "base" defense, this should be our starting group:

RDE- Grady Jarrett

NT- Anthony Rush

LDE- Marlon Davidson

ROLB- Arnold Ebikitie

ILB- Deion Jones

ILB- Rashaan Evans

LOLB- Lorenzo Carter

RCB- Casey hayward

LCB- AJ Terrell

FS- Richie Grant

SS- Erik Harris


The team philosophy we will have next year should switch from being reactionary and malleable, to crafting an actual identity. On offense we will be a balanced offense that utilizes roles for the the RB's, the RPO to set up the defense for failure, and the talent at TE to minimize the lack there of at OL and WR. Ultimately what you will get is the QB doing a lot more work outside of the pocket. Fewer throws downfield, and a lot more runs on first and second down. This will be a sink or swim year for the offensive line. If they do not hold up and we switch to a 13 personnel offense more than needed because of it, we will see major changes along the o-line in the 2023 offseason. The defense will get much closer to the identity that Pees wants. He wants the ability to adapt on the fly. If a team is running all over us, we throw our odd front, run defense package on the field and put a stop to it. If they are throwing on us we put our even front Nickle or Dime package on the field and go get the ball. If they are hitting us with everything, we throw an even front 4-3 or 4-3 Under defense on the field and build a wall up front. We become whatever we need to be to win. At his command we go from a coverage based defense to a blitz based defense. The goal of every drive is to get a strip sack or interception. Simply stopping the drive is not enough. In the end we become a much more efficient team. We have some talent and we utilize it to the best of our ability. With a plan like this, and the talent we have actually living up to their ability we should be competitive next season. While the playoffs might be a tall glass to fill, we might keep ourselves competitive enough throughout the year to keep it interesting, which is all any of us can ask mid-rebuild.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>