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Falcons snap counts for a tough loss to the Buccaneers

With injuries mounting, the Falcons saw a lot of their reserves working Sunday.

NFL: DEC 10 Buccaneers at Falcons Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s snap count time, baby.

Offense

Desmond Ridder: 72

Matthew Bergeron: 72

Ryan Neuzil: 72

Storm Norton: 72

Chris Lindstrom: 67

Kyle Pitts: 61

Tyler Vrabel: 57

Bijan Robinson: 56

Drake London: 55

Jonnu Smith: 50

Van Jefferson: 32

KhaDarel Hodge: 23

MyCole Pruitt: 21

Scotty Miller: 18

Jake Matthews: 15

Tyler Allgeier: 15

Cordarrelle Patterson: 12

Keith Smith: 11

Mack Hollins: 6

Kyle Hinton: 5


You can’t tell the story of this game without mentioning the injuries along the offensive line. Ryan Neuzil was good and Tyler Vrabel surprised me with his play, but Storm Norton mixed some solid pass protection work with some awful stretches of run blocking, and obviously the line was a bit lesser in general than it would’ve been with all the starters out there. That clearly impacted a lackluster ground game, but it also forced Ridder to speed up at times in ways that weren’t conducive to completing passes.

That said, Ridder also did not have a great day throwing to anyone not named London. Jefferson continues to be a zero for this offense as a receiver, pulling down zero targets Sunday and just three in his last four games, while Miller got open but either was missed in Ridder’s reads or was subject to errant balls. Jonnu Smith and Ridder haven’t seemed on the same page of late, and it’s evident that the passing offense has to run through London, Pitts, and Robinson down the stretch, with a smattering of looks for Smith, Hodge, and Miller mixed in. Regardless of who is under center, the Falcons have to look hard at major upgrades at wide receiver this coming offseason.

The only other major takeaway is that this is now Robinson’s backfield, if there was any remaining doubt. Allgeier was used to good effect as the closer once again and Patterson got his touches, but especially on pass-heavy days, Robinson is going to get the vast majority of snaps. His pass protection isn’t on the same level of Allgeier’s yet, but it is improving, which is helping to ensure he stays on the field.

Defense

Kaden Elliss: 68

Jessie Bates: 68

Clark Phillips: 68

A.J. Terrell: 68

Richie Grant: 55

Andre Smith Jr.: 52

Dee Alford: 51

Calais Campbell: 46

Ta’Quon Graham: 40

Albert Huggins: 39

Bud Dupree: 38

DeMarcco Hellams: 34

Lorenzo Carter: 29

Zach Harrison: 21

Arnold Ebiketie: 19

Kentavius Street: 19

Travis Bell: 17

Mike Hughes: 10

Tre Flowers: 6


Injuries forced a huge uptick in snaps for Ta’Quon Graham and Albert Huggins, and we got our first look at Travis Bell, too. Bell did decent work for someone being thrown into the fire and Graham was an asset as a pass rusher—he was credited with three pressures—while Huggins had perhaps his best game as a Falcon. The line broke down late and Graham had a missed tackle, but until very late, the group held their own to an extent I would not have anticipated. The Falcons still badly need Street and David Onyemata back.

Phillips was pressed into starting duty with Jeff Okudah out and was lights out in my estimation outside of a penalty. A sure tackler and a sticky cover corner, Phillips showcased the skill that made the Falcons covet him in the draft while showing he can be a long-term starter in this league. It’s just a question of when he’ll get that opportunity in Atlanta.

The Falcons have managed to assemble impressive depth at inside linebacker, which is really amazing given the question marks we felt they had coming into the season. Nate Landman obviously stepped in and has delivered a pretty terrific season as a fill-in starter for the shelved Troy Andersen, but Andre Smith Jr. filled in for him this past Sunday and did impressive work, piling up seven total sacks and tallying three run stops on the day. Given that Landman and Smith are pretty young and affordable, this team seems set for the next year or two behind Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen, and that’s a great thing.

The three safety looks continued apace, with Grant continuing to out-snap Hellams for the moment. I don’t know if the Falcons trust Hellams enough in coverage just yet to have him take a larger weekly bite out of Grant’s snaps, but some of Grant’s devastating lapses in coverage in recent weeks may make the team consider it regardless.

Special teams

Micah Abernathy: 27

Tre Flowers: 24

DeAngelo Malone: 23

Richie Grant: 21

KhaDarel Hodge: 20

Keith Smith: 19

Milo Eifler: 17

DeMarcco Hellams: 16

Lorenzo Carter: 16

Mack Hollins: 15

Bradley Pinion: 15

Dee Alford: 11

MyCole Pruitt: 11

John FitzPatrick: 11

Calais Campbell: 10

Andre Smith Jr.: 9

Liam McCullough: 9

Zach Harrison: 8

Ta’Quon Graham: 6

Scotty Miller: 6

Cordarrelle Patterson: 6

Kaden Elliss: 5

Ryan Neuzil: 5

Storm Norton: 5

Matthew Bergeron: 5

Kyle Hinton: 5

Younghoe Koo: 5

Arnold Ebiketie: 4

Chris Lindstrom: 4

Tyler Vrabel: 4

Albert Huggins: 3

Kentavius Street: 3

Bud Dupree: 2

Jake Matthews: 1

Jovaughn Gwyn: 1


Special teams was a true strength for Atlanta in 2021 and 2022, but to harp on a weekly issue, it has not been that kind of asset in 2023. This week it was Younghoe Koo’s turn to have a rough day with a pair of missed field goals, but the return game was a little bit better—I didn’t love Alford’s decision to fair catch it deep, but he did have a couple of nice returns—and Pinion was once again an asset.

In 2024, a healthy Avery Williams and a little shuffling of personnel for the coverage teams may well help the Falcons get back to being one of the league’s elite special teams units. Given how close they play every game, they need that.