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Falcons 2023 rookie report: The Bijan brouhaha

Robinson’s limited snaps raised eyebrows and gave us contentious Arthur Smith this week.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

You notice how small this Atlanta Falcons 2023 draft class was on a Sunday like the last one, when two rookies were inactive and the most high-profile one barely played. Atlanta’s essentially stashing a pair of players this year with the hopes that they’ll step into larger 2024 roles, with two players serving as useful reserves and two starting.

This week, of course, was overshadowed by what I’d call the Bijan brouhaha, which we’ll get to below.

RB Bijan Robinson: Plays just 11 snaps thanks to headache

Fantasy footballers frothed and gamblers grimaced, but Bijan Robinson played just 11 snaps and got a single carry on Sunday. As Robinson explained it after the game, it was due to a headache (it sounded like a bad one, possibly a migraine) and the Falcons simply used him sparingly because he wasn’t close to 100%. The NFL is looking into it, but Arthur Smith returned to his hyper-prickly form to tell us there’s nothing to see here.

While I think Smith is bringing scrutiny on himself that he doesn’t need to, I doubt the NFL is going to find anything malicious with Robinson’s situation on Sunday. I believe that we’ll see Robinson back out there Sunday against the Titans with a full complement of snaps and that this was a one week blip; thankfully, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson were able to do strong work in his stead. Robinson’s recent weeks have been quiet, but I don’t think that’ll last for long given his talent and the team’s eagerness to utilize him.

G Matthew Bergeron: Quality run-blocking

Bergeron allowed a couple of pressures and a quarterback hit for Desmond Ridder, but it was far from his worst effort in pass protection this year. Happily, it may also have been his best game paving the way for the this team’s running backs, as he did consistently solid work in a tough matchup against Tampa Bay.

The slow but steady progress from Bergeron ought to having him playing pretty well by the end of the season—he already is in stretches—and he could be a very good long-term starter at left guard for Atlanta. All is well here.

DE Zach Harrison: Playing a limited role, again

Harrison was just one snap off his season high and had his second hurry of the season while pushing his way into the backfield more than once, but unfortunately, he also missed a sack opportunity on Baker Mayfield. This season is a learning-on-the-job opportunity for a player the Falcons are clearly high on, so we’ll take the highlights and look for further signs of growth.

CB Clark Phillips: Inactive

Every week until injuries crop up, in all likelihood, though I’d expect Phillips to be the team’s fourth cornerback at worst in 2024.

S DeMarcco Hellams: Clearly third safety

He played a career-high 17 snaps on defense this past week, and the normally stout tackler missed an opportunity against Tampa Bay. Otherwise, he looked solid out there, and the Falcons were comfortable enough with Hellams as the third safety to let Jaylinn Hawkins go entirely. Even on weeks where he barely plays in that role, Hellams will be a core special teamer, so he’ll always have significant gameday snaps.

G Jovaughn Gwyn: Inactive

The same note as we have here for Phillips. The Falcons have kept Gwyn on the roster because they like him, but there isn’t likely to be a role for him until 2024.