The Falcons kicked off the 2023 season with a win, the first time the team won its first game since the Martin Van Buren presidency.
We still don’t know a lot about this team. For instance, can Arthur Smith and Desmond Ridder put together a pass game? I’m not sure.
But I am sure about five things after Week 1.
1: Jessie Bates is the real deal
You can’t have a better debut game than Sunday’s Bates performance. Any rumblings about him potentially being overpaid are long gone. We named Bates the game’s MVP and there was no debate. Two picks and one forced fumble resulting in 17 of Atlanta’s 24 points is crazy.
Atlanta has been so short of impact players on its defense that even after only one game, the team’s newest safety is a breath of fresh air. After all, we’re just a few years removed from Duron Harmon starting at free safety. Absolutely awesome performance.
2: The pass game ain’t there yet
Sunday’s game should not be a referendum on Desmond Ridder. Things obviously didn’t go perfectly, however, with Ridder’s top highlight being an impressive (if not slightly off target) deep pass to Kyle Pitts for 34 yards. Outside of that pass, Ridder’s top target (completed or not) was about 11 yards. I don’t think Ridder was good enough, but the same goes for much of the supporting staff. The offensive line gave up four sacks, and the pressure he faced is tough to overcome for a young quarterback.
Stepping back from the current roster, passing games in general aren’t easy to put together. Ridder didn’t do a lot to prove himself, but the coaching staff and his support didn’t put him in the best chance to succeed. I expect the pass blocking to tighten up, but I don’t know what to expect from Ridder if/when it does. This is just one game out of 17 and Ridder’s 5th start; it’s early, but we’ll need to see some progress.
3: The defense isn’t there either
The good news is the defense looks significantly better than last year. The bad news is that even with that improvement, the defense is just adequate. Atlanta’s lack of an adequate EDGE is still exceedingly apparent with Bryce Young frequently having loads of time to find an open receive. Other than EDGE, Atlanta looks like it could be average — a huge improvement from past years.
You could give the defensive line some credit if Chuba Hubbard hadn’t rumbled to 6.7 yards per carry. There are a lot of new players running something fresh, meaning things should look a bit rough right now. Give it some time and and this defense can become around average.
4: Bijan Robinson is the real deal
Overshadowed by Bates getting The Falcoholic’s MVP nod is that Robinson is legitimate. He was the 8th overall pick, so you expect great things out of him. In his first game, he showed off some elite moves that shadow he potentially is the generational talent worthy of that draft slot.
Robinson’s touchdown is such a perfect example. He caught a pass near the line of scrimmage and did this beautiful step back to avoid a tackle that would take down 98% of the league.
bijan robinson in his first game ever.— (@arkeshrayyy) September 11, 2023
this touchdown was a thing of beauty. he should have been tackled for a loss and instead turned into a touchdown
92 yards from scrimmage in his first ever game. pic.twitter.com/1FFADUghFl https://t.co/iKRleY1HYI
Robinson turned nothing into six points. He should get even more chances to show off his skills moving forward.
5: Drew Dalman took a jump
It would be easy to throw some shade at a few players who had a down game on the line. At the same time, it would be a little silly to critique players for pass blocking when they are, at their core, run blockers. One player who took a jump from 2022 is center Drew Dalman. Thankfully Arthur Smith had some patience with Dalman after he showed some inconsistency earlier in his career. The inconsistencies in his snaps look gone, but most importantly, he looked like perhaps Atlanta’s best blocker on Sunday.
there’s the Falcons run game coming alive with a clever design on this Bijan Robinson run. Check out Center Drew Dalman pulling and sealing along with the Fullback winding back. pic.twitter.com/kpKV5FY60D— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 10, 2023
Absolutely crazy looking moves for a man his size. A good reminder that, as long as you aren’t Jalen Mayfield, offensive linemen need time to develop. I’m giving Dalman serious credit for Tyler Allgeier’s 5 YPC and Bijan Robinson’s 5.6 YPC.
The Falcons should just run the ball 70% of the time, which is probably something Arthur Smith doesn’t need encouragement to do.