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Falcons snap counts from the Week 1 loss to the Saints

Who played and what does it tell us?

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’m not going to kick this thing off by outlining the details of the game, because you already know them. Suffice to say we’re all trying to figure out why this team looked so good and so different early on, only to fall apart late again.

The snap counts can’t tell the full story, but perhaps they can help illuminate a few things and show us how the coaching staff divvied up playing time Sunday. Let’s get to it, courtesy of Pro Football Reference.


Marcus Mariota: 75

Jake Matthews: 75

Elijah Wilkinson: 75

Drew Dalman: 75

Chris Lindstrom: 75

Kaleb McGary: 75

Kyle Pitts: 63

Drake London: 54

Cordarrelle Patterson: 49

Parker Hesse: 48

Olamide Zaccheaus: 45

Bryan Edwards: 35

Keith Smith: 24

Avery Williams: 23

KhaDarel Hodge: 20

Damien Williams: 10

Anthony Firkser: 3

Colby Gossett: 1

Obviously, the Falcons didn’t get Kyle Pitts involved enough in this game, given that he was on the field more than any non-quarterback or offensive lineman. He was blocking more often than you would have anticipated for a player who is most dangerous with the ball in his hands, and the Falcons didn’t appear to prioritize scheming him open and trying to pick up the explosive plays that he can and should provide. It’s fair to suggest that the team just missed some opportunities—he had as many targets as Drake Lond, tied for a team-leading seven—but the lack of red zone targets in particular is weird for a player who has a size and speed advantage on just about everybody. That feels like a blip rather than a long-term issue—it’s hard to imagine Pitts won’t be a focal point of the offense going forward, and with much more success—but it does stand out given that the lack of Pitts utilization is a carryover complaint from last year.

Ditto Bryan Edwards, who played far less but was not really targeted on Sunday outside of one miss in the red zone. The Falcons got plenty out of their #1 receiver, #2/3 receiver, and #4 receiver, but it’s hard to imagine them really taking off through the air without their presumed #2 receiver and top tight end being more involved.

Patterson had to carry a very heavy load after the Falcons elected to make Tyler Allgeier inactive, as Damien Williams was hurt early on and Avery Williams was not utilized often as a runner. He performed admirably, as he always does, but you have to imagine Allgeier will be active and/or Caleb Huntley flexed to the active roster against the Rams to ensure Patterson isn’t run into the ground early in the season.

It was noteworthy that Hesse, who had one costly penalty, got so much run. The Falcons kept him because they were high on his blocking skills in particular, and they’re showing they’re very comfortable rolling him out in two tight end sets with Kyle Pitts. With Anthony Firkser having a quiet day after coming up from the practice squad and Feleipe Franks not even getting a snap, Hesse seems pretty locked in to a major role.


A.J. Terrell: 61

Mykal Walker: 61

Richie Grant: 60

Jaylinn Hawkins: 60

Casey Hayward: 59

Lorenzo Carter: 51

Grady Jarrett: 45

Adetokunbo Ogundeji: 39

Ta’Quon Graham: 37

Anthony Rush: 28

Arnold Ebiketie: 26

Dee Alford: 21

Timothy Horne: 19

Mike Ford: 17

Matt Dickerson: 13

Quinton Bell: 10

Darren Hall: 2

Dean Marlowe: 1

Erik Harris: 1

Atlanta got an encouraging day out of the defense...well, for a while. We largely saw enough from young defenders to feel good about them going forward.

As expected, Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins started, and Hawkins in particular was an aggressive presence who nearly managed an extremely impressive interception against Jameis Winston. Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker were full-time starters, too, and both made their marks on the game, with Walker picking up a sack. As anticipated, Ta’Quon Graham started this one and picked up his own sack, while Lorenzo Carter was a full-time starter as anticipated and chipped in a half sack with Grady Jarrett. If there is growing to do and mistakes ahead, I love seeing multiple defenders stepping into large roles and doing good things with them right away.

The team managed to get run for both Alford and Ford in this one, telling you there’s room for both to play in this secondary, and both were solid at worst in their first game action in 2022. Hall, meanwhile, seems likely to only get significant run if those two falter and/or A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward aren’t healthy.

Somewhat surprisingly, we also saw plenty of Horne, Dickerson, and Bell, as the trio entered the game late when the Falcons had a big lead. Pro Football Focus gave Horne good marks for his work in this one, and it seems the Falcons may have found a keeper in the rookie undrafted free agent, which would be a big plus for a line that desperately needs depth. The team’s willingness to lean on the trio likely means they’re all sticking around for a bit, with Abdullah Anderson, Jordan Brailford, and Derrick Tangelo all on the practice squad if Atlanta needs to add more.

We’ll see shifts in how the team uses their personnel, but this first game felt pretty illuminating. The team will lean heavily on their starters, especially their young ones, and that went well for most of the game Sunday. Most of it.

Special Teams

Mike Ford: 25

Quinton Bell: 25

Dean Marlowe: 25

Erik Harris: 25

Troy Andersen: 25

Keith Smith: 21

KhaDarel Hodge: 20

Bradley Pinion: 17

Avery Williams: 16

Parker Hesse: 13

Nathan Landman: 12

Darren Hall: 11

Liam McCullough: 11

Richie Grant: 9

Adetokunbo Ogundeji: 8

Kaleb McGary: 7

Chris Lindstrom: 7

Colby Gossett: 7

Elijah Wilkinson: 7

Jake Matthews: 7

Younghoe Koo: 7

Germain Ifedi: 7

Matt Hennessy: 7

Arnold Ebiketie: 6

Lorenzo Carter: 5

Cordarrelle Patterson: 5

Jaylinn Hawkins: 4

Timothy Horne: 4

Matt Dickerson: 4

Ta’Quon Graham: 3

Olamide Zaccheaus: 1

Troy Andersen is off to a roaring start on the Richie Grant Plan, as he’s carving out a significant role on special teams but isn’t sniffing playing time on defense. That may change as the season rolls along, but the Falcons will find plenty of use for him there. Ditto Nate Landman, whose special teams value appears to have made Nick Kwiatkoski an inactive for now.

Even if Ford winds up seeing his playing time on defense dwindle as the season rolls on and Dee Alford’s role presumably continues to grow, he’ll be a core special teamer. He’s done quality work as a gunner throughout his career and continued to work in that role in Week 1, and also tied for the team lead in snaps. Quinton Bell may also see his role diminish if DeAngelo Malone is active in future weeks, but again, the special teams work should keep him active.

Avery Williams, meanwhile, is going to get all of the punt return work and the bulk of the kick return work, and he’s looking very good in his second season. With some solid work on offense and the best single game punt return average with more than two returns since Kenjon Barner back in 2019, Williams will be a player worth watching the rest of the way, especially because this team has rarely had a great return game in the past few years.

One final note: It’s jarring to see Zaccheaus with basically no role on special teams after he carved out a substantial one there in the past, but it’s a testament to how large his role on offense has become.