This rookie class is mostly about the future after the first two picks, something I’ll be reminding us of weekly. Bijan Robinson was drafted to be an immediate impact player and has been, while Matthew Bergeron is both the team’s long-term starting left guard and the guy that’s learning on that particularly job right now. Everyone else might become a great asset to this Falcons team, but it will take time.
That doesn’t mean the rookie report doesn’t have its value each week, because it’s fun to track how these players do over time. Just remember that we’ve yet to see the best any of these players can offer, which is downright scary (for everyone else) when we’re talking about Robinson.
RB Bijan Robinson: Bonkers touchdown grab highlights quieter day
This was Robinson’s smallest yardage output of the season, with his 58 combined yards falling just short of the 60 he put up in Week 3 in Detroit. This being Bijan, though, it was still not a down day.
That’s because Robinson made a Matrix-like catch that gifted Falcons videographer Austin Hittel captured from the roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, one that he turned into a touchdown through what I like to call Bijan magic.
As maybe the most dangerous man on the field in any given game, Robinson will have days like this where he has one mind-blowing highlight and several useful plays. He’ll also have days when he explodes and destroys an opposing defense, and I suspect we’ll get one against Washington.
G Matthew Bergeron: Struggles in Week 5
Thus far, Bergeron has been uneven, as you’d expect from a rookie offensive lineman. He was an asset in Week 1 against Carolina, especially against that ferocious Panthers pass rush, and he was one of the team’s few useful linemen against Detroit. Other weeks, things have been rougher.
In Week 5, Bergeron was credited with two of Atlanta’s seven pressures allowed by Pro Football Focus, as well as one quarterback hit on Desmond Ridder and a hurry. He also struggled (like much of the rest of the line) to open lanes for Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier, and it was arguably his roughest effort of the season thus far. As I’ve said every week, his talent isn’t in question and this will get better, but Bergeron is not yet a high-end asset for this offensive line. That day will come.
DE Zach Harrison: Playing a limited role, again
Harrison had a tackle and a run stop and continues to be a piece of the rotation, one who delivers useful snaps on a weekly basis but isn’t producing flashy, splashy plays. That’s about what we should expect throughout his rookie season, but his role should continue to grow as time goes on, however modestly.
CB Clark Phillips: Inactive
The Falcons still really like Phillips, per Arthur Smith, but it has not yet translated to any playing time. The Falcons seem happy with their collection of veterans, who have generally done a good-to-excellent job thus far outside of a pressed-into-action Tre Flowers, and will therefore keep parking Phillips and focusing on his development.
The starter’s upside is still there, and if Phillips ends up being nothing more than a really good reserve for the next little bit, that’s great.
S DeMarcco Hellams: Back to special teams role
Hellams played about a dozen snaps on defense a week ago and held up well, but he was back to a purely special teams-focused role this week. It won’t be the last time we see him on defense this year, but last week was not a signal that Hellams was heading for an expanded weekly role in his rookie season.
That’s okay, because Hellams is a steady force for good on special teams and has the talent to be a useful defender down the line. The Falcons can afford to bring him along a bit more slowly with Jessie Bates and Richie Grant locked in as starters and a seasoned Jaylinn Hawkins soaking up reserve snaps right now, and hopefully when the time comes for him to take that third safety role in 2024, he’ll be more than ready for it.
G Jovaughn Gwyn: Weekly inactive
Inactive all year, in all likelihood, unless something goes wrong. The fact that the Falcons keep making other roster moves while holding on to Gwyn is still an excellent sign for his future in Atlanta.