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Arthur Smith expects most of the starting lineup to be healthy for Week 1

The Falcons should be in good shape for the season opener against the Panthers.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta sought to leave the preseason with a healthy squad, and per Arthur Smith, they’ve done so. Despite a raft of injuries and some key players hitting injured reserve, the Falcons’ head coach sounded a note of optimism about availability for Week 1 for most of the players currently dealing with injuries.

Considering that’s a list that includes starting center Drew Dalman, cornerback Jeff Okudah and Mike Hughes, and running back/kick returner/fan favorite Cordarrelle Patterson, that’s excellent news. Getting the team to the regular season with the cleanest possible bill of health was also clearly a factor for the team’s decision to sit starters, regardless of how you feel about that decision.

We’ll expect a more specific update on who those “one or two” players are in the next week or so, but knowing that most of the players the team has held out are not in doubt for the season opener is a relief. The Falcons are a team with more top-end talent and arguably improved depth befitting their status as a potential 2023 contender, but they are still a team that can ill afford to be without multiple starters for any length of time. That’s especially true along the offensive line, where the starting five looks terrific and the reserves look...well, unproven at best.

Considering the Falcons are playing a Panthers team that is currently sorting through several injures at wide receivers in Week 1, having the full starting lineup (or close to it) figures to give them another edge. We’ll see if Arthur Smith’s optimism is warranted, but getting Dalman and Okudah back in particular and putting a quality, healthy starting lineup out there for that tilt will help the Falcons start 1-0 for the first time since 2017.