Every week, five Atlanta Falcons must be named. No more, no less.
This week, in looking at the most intriguing matchups versus the Detroit Lions, the theme revolves around the potential for breaking out.
Of course, we start with the team’s quarterback Desmond Ridder. Thus far in 2023, we’ve seen both good and bad from Ridder, but the hope against Detroit is that the scale will teeter in favor of the good. It’s about time, too.
When looking back at both former Falcons quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Marcus Mariota’s starts to their respective seasons as starters, it took the better part of a month before they really started to get their feel for the offense. Ryan had an outstanding day in Week 4 against the Washington Football Team back in 2021, while Mariota made strides in a road win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 last season.
Falcons “joker” Cordarrelle Patterson was named as an intriguing player in last week’s battle against the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, Patterson was inactive despite a full week of practice. His status for this weekend’s action against the Lions is up in the air, with him missing Thursday’s practice due to a thigh injury.
Naming Patterson is still worthwhile, because exactly how head coach Arthur Smith plans to deploy his joker remains to be seen, and will be well worth keeping an eye on.
I could potentially name all of the team’s tight ends, since it’s likely that they’ll be integral to the team’s ability to attack the Lions defense via play action. The Seattle Seahawks had a lot of success last week in using play action out of multiple tight-end sets to carve up the Lions for big gains.
The player that most stands to benefit from that is Kyle Pitts, who has yet to truly get going this season from a production standpoint. This game offers the perfect opportunity for him to have a breakout day.
Another possible breakout day could come from veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Campbell has been a solid addition to the Falcons defense this year, but has been overshadowed thus far by other incoming free agents like safety Jessie Bates and defensive tackle David Onyemata. Campbell has been a solid contributor against the run, but he has yet to make a true impact as a pass-rusher.
As Campbell searches for his 100th career sack, he has a great opportunity to do so against a Lions offensive line that will likely be missing starting left tackle Taylor Decker. His replacement will be right tackle Penei Sewell, with backup Matt Nelson plugging into the opening on the right side. The powerful Campbell should be able to take advantage of that and follow in the footsteps of fellow free-agent additions with a breakout, career-defining day.
Our final intriguing player is linebacker Troy Andersen, who recently cleared concussion protocol and should be able to suit up this week against the Lions. His return to the lineup is timely given he’ll likely be tasked with covering dynamic Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs often.
Andersen is an elite athlete and stands out among the Falcons linebackers as the player most capable of sticking with Gibbs in coverage. Should Andersen keep Gibbs contained this week, it’ll be the type of performance that will get a lot of attention and give the former a chance to break out on a national stage.
Are there other Falcons that you can name that have breakout potential on Sunday?