While the fates of Kyle Pitts and Drake London are hotly debated for yet another week, Atlanta’s 2023 draft class rolls on. This week, Bijan Robinson stole the show again, DeMarcco Hellams made clear why he is a seventh round steal in the making, and Matthew Bergeron’s growing pains continued as he becomes the caliber of starting left guard I think most of us expect him to be.
Here’s your weekly Falcons rookie report.
RB Bijan Robinson: Spectacular again
If you could build the offense out of Bijan Robinson, what success we’d see!
Robinson was phenomenal, turning sometimes muddy blocking into consistent gains, putting defenders in the dirt, and even making a spectacular one-handed catch that should’ve gone nowhere but instead went quite far. He finished with more yards than any other skill position player on the team and is clearly a special player who is an asset to this team both as a runner and a receiver. It’s hard to conceive of how putrid this offense would be without Robinson continually making something out of nothing, and even if the passing game gets on track and Tyler Allgeier finds some lanes, Bijan will remain perhaps this offense’s most vital player.
G Matthew Bergeron: So-so week 4
Bergeron continues to develop on the job. In this one, he wasn’t the liability Jake Matthews was, but didn’t fare as well as the right side of the line (and Drew Dalman, who had a quality game) did on Sunday against the Jaguars, scuffling a little bit in run blocking and allowing one quarterback hit on Desmond Ridder.
For a rookie making the switch to left guard and being pressed right into starting action, he’s been pretty solid. I fully expect that time and experience will make Bergeron good-to-great for Atlanta, and by the end of this season I’d expect him to show us why he’s going to be counted upon to hold down the left guard job for years to come.
DE Zach Harrison: Playing a limited role
Harrison’s settling in as a backup getting playing time in line with Ta’Quon Graham and Timothy Horne, and thus far it’s as hit or miss as you’d expect for a developing defensive lineman. Harrison was “credited” with a missed tackle on Sunday against the Jaguars and one assist, and his best days should be ahead of him in this defense. Whether he gets a larger role as the season grinds on and the team’s older starters need a break remains to be seen.
CB Clark Phillips: Inactive
Phillips will be a factor for this Falcons defense at some point; he’s too talented not to be. For the moment, with Jeff Okudah back in action, he’s the odd man out given that Mike Hughes is handling punts, Okudah, A.J. Terrell, and Dee Alford are all starting, and the team favors Tre Flowers as depth. I’d look for at least a small role for him later in the season.
S DeMarcco Hellams: Makes appearance on defense
I said just last week that I didn’t expect Hellams to have a shot to make his case for the third safety role in 2023, and Ryan Nielsen apparently took that as a personal challenge.
Hellams played about a dozen snaps on defense, producing a hurry along the way, and did so on a day where Jaylinn Hawkins solely played special teams. The team clarified today that Hellams was snaps as the team shifted Richie Grant closer to the line of scrimmage, effectively playing those dozen snaps in place of Nate Landman. We’ll see if this becomes a trend rather than a one week thing, but Hellams is earning the coaching staff’s trust and also figured in as a personal punt protector on Sunday. He has a bright future in Atlanta.
G Jovaughn Gwyn: Weekly inactive
See last week’s note. You won’t be seeing Gwyn unless injury strikes in 2023, but he may work his way into a role in 2024.