Atlanta’s 2023 rookie class is one of its smallest in years, and with a roster suddenly stocked with veterans from a free agency spending splurge, it’s also the most forward-looking class of Terry Fontenot’s tenure. Aside from Bijan Robinson and Matthew Bergeron, larger roles will have to wait for these rookies, and even Robinson and Bergeron ought to have better years ahead of them than this initial one.
That means plenty of weeks like this, where Bergeron and Robinson impact the game but not necessarily in massive ways, while everyone else has a small-to-non-existent role. The rookie report rolls on, either way.
RB Bijan Robinson: Solid but stymied on the ground
Robinson produced more yards than a week ago, where a crazy touchdown saved his day, but this effort felt less impactful than previous ones. Robinson caught five of his eight targets for 43 yards, with a pair of plays where Desmond Ridder simply missed him, and ran 13 times for 37 yards, a clip of just 2.8 yards per carry. That’s 80 total yards, but outside of a 22 yard grab and scamper, he averaged under four yards per touch on Sunday.
There isn’t any long-term concern with his pace or production, as Bijan is still a genuine talent who will find his way to better days as the offense figures out how to overcome stacked fronts and get him into better matchups as a receiving option. Right now, too many plays boil down to “give Bijan Robinson a chance to turn two yards into 10 yards,” which just isn’t a recipe for consistent success.
G Matthew Bergeron: Growing in fits and starts
This was Bergeron’s best game since Detroit. That’s not to say it was a great game, but Bergeron only allowed one quarterback hit, was not penalized, and was not an active liability as a run blocker as Washington simply overwhelmed this line a bit and especially this tight end group.
The progress is going to come in fits and starts, but Bergeron has the entire season to grow on the job, as he’s in zero danger of being replaced and still seems likely to be Atlanta’s left guard of both the present and future. He just needs time and refinement and he’ll get there, as I’ve found myself typing every week.
DE Zach Harrison: Playing a limited role, again
Two tackles, both of them run stops, is pretty good work for just eight snaps. Harrison received very limited work in this one, and continues to look like a solid run defender in his opportunities.
The Falcons will want more than that from Harrison over the long haul—a lot more—but this year’s heavy veteran presence means they can afford to bring him along slowly.
CB Clark Phillips: Inactive
The same as last week, he’s inactive until an injury pops up in the cornerback group, most likely. As is the case with Harrison, Phillips should have a bright future in Atlanta with the potential to start, but it’s not happening right now.
S DeMarcco Hellams: Snaps on defense
He played about a dozen snaps again on Sunday on defense, including some third downs, and picked up a single tackle. As always, Hellams was also a fixture on special teams.
The Falcons seem keen to find ways to get him into games and have given him some opportunities when they’re pushing their starting safeties closer to the line of scrimmage; if he continues to fare pretty well in those limited opportunities, he ought to keep getting them. If nothing else, he’s a core player for Marquice Williams.
G Jovaughn Gwyn: Weekly inactive
Gwyn is not going to get playing time this year unless an injury crops up in front of him. The hope for the Falcons is that he’ll be able to compete for a key reserve role on the interior of the offensive line next year, likely going up against the likes of Ryan Neuzil, Kyle Hinton for that kind of role. At the moment, he’s just waiting and developing.