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3 Up, 3 Down: A rookie steps up and a fan-favorite fades back

Three Falcons who shined on an otherwise-dreary afternoon, and three Falcons who were stuck in the mud

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Falcons have now won back-to-back games for only the second time this season, but the most recent pair of victories has Atlanta sitting alone in first place of the NFC South.

That’s reason to celebrate, even if things weren’t always pretty in the 13-8 win against the New York Jets. With a defense playing as well as Atlanta’s at the moment, this team should be in every game down the stretch and looks poised to make its first playoff appearance in five seasons. Given the weather and the caliber of New York’s defense, the offense gets a slight pass for its poor play at times on Sunday, but there’s still a clear need for improvement.

Three Up

Bud Dupree

One week after putting Dupree in the down section of this series, I am pleased to see his stock bounce back. Dupree entered Sunday’s game third on the team with 21 pressures this season, but he hasn’t capitalized on every chance to get the quarterback down. Against the Jets, that wasn’t an issue. Dupree led the Falcons with two sacks, including a strip sack in the fourth quarter. It’s clear at this point that Atlanta still doesn’t have a fear-inducing pass rush, but with several veterans like Dupree involved, the floor of this unit is higher than it has been.

Clark Phillips III

The rookie out of Utah was forced into action early in this game when star cornerback A.J. Terrell left the game after the Jet’s opening possession. He was immediately noticeable due to his efforts as a tackler, and there weren’t any moments in the game where Phillips looked over his skis.

That’s a testament to both the player and the coaching staff, which has developed this secondary nicely. Phillips finished with four solo tackles on the afternoon. If Terrell does miss more time, Phillips looks like a capable short-term replacement with a development trajectory that is ticking upwards.

Kyle Pitts

A 13-point output isn’t really something to celebrate, but at least Pitts saw more consistent usage than he has at many points this season. He gained 16 yards on the team’s first third down of the game and finished with a team-high 51 yards.

It’s not the yardage total that lands Pitts in this spot but rather the eight targets he saw. That’s the third-most targets Pitts has received this season, and it’s hopefully a sign that he and Ridder are getting on the same page.

Three Down

Tyler Allgeier

Allgeier is still a good, strong runner with a role in this offense. It’s just become clear that his role has decreased while Bijan Robinson’s has expanded. There are still times when Allgeier’s North-South running style provides the spark the Falcons need or seals a game the way it did against New Orleans.

Nevertheless, the second-year back gained just 26 yards on eight carries against the Jets. We expected a true committee in Atlanta this season, but as calls for Robinson’s involvement have grown louder, Allgeier’s production has diminished.

Parker Hesse

Many rejoiced when Hesse was activated off of IR in late November, and he saw his first action since Week 1 in the team’s win against the Saints. His most notable contribution against the Jets, though, wasn’t very positive. The Jets’ safety in the first quarter came in part because Hesse was blown backward into the end zone, blocking Robinson’s progress and essentially tackling him in the process.

New York’s defensive line gave Atlanta headaches throughout the afternoon, but the early safety made this game a bit more uncomfortable than it should have been.

Tre Flowers

Flowers still maintains a large role on special teams and played 23 snaps in that facet of the game on Sunday, although he did have a penalty. However, even after Terrell’s departure, Flowers saw only four snaps on defense. That Atlanta chose to go with rookie Clark Phillips is perhaps an indication that he’s surpassed Flowers on the depth chart at outside corner.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the team undoubtedly wants to develop its draft picks, but it may not bode well for Flowers’ future playing time on the defense.

Do you have any shoutouts or callouts from Sunday’s game? Let us know in the comments.