The earlier announcement from the Falcons that Drew Dalman would start at center was the big news of the day for Atlanta, but that came amidst the team releasing its first depth chart of the season. Does it contain any other surprises?
I won’t string you along: No. No it does not. That’s not unwelcome, however, because it means the players we thought were set to start based on what we’ve heard and seen this summer are indeed the players starting, and that in turn means the Falcons have a young and intriguing lineup.
On offense, the team has provided Marcus Mariota with plenty of weapons in his return to a starting role, with Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson now joined by rookie Drake London, former Raider Bryan Edwards, and capable pass catching back Damien Williams, not to mention rookie back Tyler Allgeier and returning deep threat Olamide Zaccheaus. The offensive line remains a question mark—Dalman is obviously unproven and Elijah Wilkinson is a virtual unknown, having never played left guard in the pros—but the team has the pieces to be fun if nothing else.
Defensively, things are a work in progress, but the Falcons suddenly have young players with upside virtually everywhere. Up front that’s Ta’Quon Graham joining Anthony Rush and the great Grady Jarrett, while behind them the team is rolling out Lorenzo Carter and Adetokunbo Ogundeji as starters at outside linebacker with rookie pass rushing threats Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone working behind. Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker are a pair of would-be bullies against the run at inside linebacker, and they have an All-Pro talent in A.J. Terrell lurking behind them with Casey Hayward, plus two young safeties with potential in Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins. It’s not all going to come together immediately for the defense—there are a lot of first-and-second-year pros stepping into huge roles—but the future looks brighter on that side of the ball than it has in some time.
The striking thing, looking at this depth chart, is just how young the starting lineup is. Only Casey Hayward is over 30 on defense, while only Jake Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Keith Smith are 30 or older on offense. For a team that wants to contend now but should contend in the near future, having so much young talent assembled is a difference-maker.
As Steve Wyche wrote earlier on AtlantaFalcons.com, this Falcons team is deeper and more talented than last year’s squad, which had to swing, scratch, and scrabble for every single one of their seven wins. It might take some time and will certainly take additions for this team to truly click into place as a perennial contender, but this season has long been intriguing because of the team’s progress in turning over the roster and their vows to get better. We’ll get to see how it’s all coming together in just a few days.
Go to their website for the full depth chart, if you’re so inclined.