Can Jalen Carter Realistically Slide Past The Atlanta Falcons?

It’s time. We need to have a real conversation about Jalen Carter and his fit with the Atlanta Falcons. Going into the pre-draft process, it was agreed upon that Jalen Carter was a top-two prospect in this draft. For some, including myself, he was not two. But ever since the initial report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his alleged role in the death of his teammate Devon Willock and staffer, Chandler LeCroy, it has been a rocky road for the former Georgia Bulldog.

Now, he not only looked bad at his pro day, he didn’t even finish it. We’ll discuss if he still fits what Terry and Arthur are trying to build in Atlanta and if all of these “character concerns” warrant a slide to, and potentially past, the Atlanta Falcons pick at 8.

How Realistic is a Potential Slide Past the Atlanta Falcons For Jalen Carter?

A Little Backstory

Let’s start from the beginning. Last season, Georgia hoisted the national championship trophy for the first time in over 30 years. They did it behind the play of their stellar defense — specifically, their ridiculous defensive line.

They held the Crimson Tide run game to 30 yards rushing total on 28 rushes. A backfield headlined by Brian Robinson, Jr. who, in his rookie year, averaged 6.7 yards a rush for the Washington Commanders. That line included three first round picks, including the first overall pick, in the following draft but the main catalyst of this was then-sophomore Jalen Carter.

He then rode that success into this last year as he amassed 32 tackles, 31 quarterback hurries, and 3.0 sacks in 13 games, while continuously fighting off various injuries, helping lead Georgia to another national championship. His incredible season included 2.0 sacks against LSU in the SEC championship game, and a moment to show off his incredible strength to fans and scouts alike.

Carter was the dream prospect. A consensus All-American, a key cog to multiple national championship teams. He had a top-five selection all but locked up, if he wasn’t first off the board. So, why are we talking about him possibly falling past the eighth pick in this year’s NFL draft?

“Character Concerns”

On December 14, 2022, Todd McShay brought out two words that you never want to hear when discussing draft prospects: “Character Concerns”. He didn’t go into detail, but he stated that teams should be wary of them. He caught a ton of scrutiny, both on the internet and around the mediasphere, about his comments and lack of detail before making such an accusatory statement.

A month later, the horrendous tragedy following the national championship game occurred. We don’t need to go into detail. But, as far as Jalen Carter’s draft stock is concerned, we thought nothing of it. Hell, we didn’t know he was involved at all.

But then, minutes before he was scheduled to speak at the scouting combine, Athens police issued a warrant for the arrest of Carter. The NFL world all held its collective breath as the podium in Indianapolis remained empty. He was charged for racing and reckless driving, both misdemeanors in the state of Georgia, and was released the same day on $4,000 bond, according to multiple reports.

He also has had trouble with speeding before. CNN reports that months before the tragedy, Carter was issued three citations, all related to speeding and reckless driving. Were these the “character concerns” McShay was talking about? How much of a concern is Carter’s propensity for driving faster than the speed limit?

Now, he’s shown up to Georgia’s pro day nine pounds over his weight from just two weeks ago at the scouting combine. All 32 teams were in attendance. All eyes were on Athens for this event. Carter opted to not do any tests. Just on-field drills, and he struggled to finish those.

Is Jalen Carter a Good Fit For The Atlanta Falcons?

On the field, without a doubt. Jalen Carter would be the perfect defensive lineman to bring in with Nielsen’s “attack-style” defense. But that’s not what we’re discussing.

The craziest part of all of this is that, if it were just the misdemeanors, I don’t think we’d be having this discussion. Teams have overlooked worse circumstances from draft prospects, and honestly, for less talent. But now that he has shown up unprepared to Georgia’s pro day, his one chance to solidify his status as a top prospect after all of this scrutiny, we may have a problem.

I may not know the pressures of being a five-star athlete. I may not know the pressures of having to prepare myself mentally to perform physically in front of NFL scouts. But I have been to a ton of job interviews. And I know that you have to show up prepared for anything that may be thrown at you. Not only did Carter come unprepared, the weight gain gives off the vibe that he doesn’t care.

Terry Fontenot makes it clear that he needs 53 of the “right guys” on the field and on the roster. With as many questions as Carter has provided, with the only answers being on the field, it begs to wonder whether Carter is one of those guys. Does he fit?

Final Thoughts

Carter has some legitimate reasons to not be fully focused on football right now. There is no timetable on dealing with tragedy, especially one you may feel somewhat responsible for. There is no telling what that can do to a person’s psyche. Then, the timing of his arrest warrant and the media circus that followed. It’s been a rough March for Jalen Carter and teams like the Atlanta Falcons understand that.

This is not an excuse for his behaviors as much as it is a question of understanding. Understanding why he wasn’t prepared for his pro day. Understanding how all of this occurred in such a short amount of time and what that can do to somebody’s state of mind.

There’s a great chance that this all means nothing and Carter goes top-five like everyone predicted before the draft process began. Hell, McShay still projected him to go #2 overall at the time of his “character concerns” comment. But this is a situation that the NFL world needs to keep their eye on, both up to the draft and beyond. Hopefully Jalen gets the help he needs and he has the successful NFL career we all expect from him.

Atlanta Falcons Can Learn From Super Bowl LVII Quarterbacks

Let’s start this off by saying congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs and their staff. There were a ton of questions coming into this season after the Tyreek Hill trade about the effectiveness of this offense without the “Cheetah”. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and company quelled all of those questions and ended up holding the Lombardi trophy at the end of it all. But throughout the two weeks that set up Super Bowl LVII, there were some narratives and talking points about these quarterbacks that could easily resonate with the Atlanta Falcons and their fans. Even throughout the game itself, the Atlanta Falcons brass could take a few notes on how to go about the 2023 season and beyond.

How the Atlanta Falcons Can Learn From Super Bowl LVII Quarterbacks

This Is A Quarterback’s League

Throughout this run of dominance for the Kansas City Chiefs, they have had an advantage nobody else has. There is a reason the Chiefs are in any game they play in. If you don’t think that’s the case, look at their stats when trailing by 10+ points and get back to me.

Patrick Mahomes is absurd when his team needs his most

The Chiefs simply have the best marriage between play-caller and quarterback. The Mahomes-Reid pairing has been the best duo since the 20-year stint of Belichick-Brady. Showing that once you have the head coach and quarterback, everything else tends to fall into place.

Looking at the Falcons, the play-caller seems to be in place with Arthur Smith. He’s shown that his offense can be friendly to a quarterback, with the right supporting cast. There’s a reason that Ryan Tannehill saw a resurgence of sorts with Smith and hasn’t looked the same since he left. Now, it’s about finding the quarterback who not only can work in this system, but elevate it.

Is that Desmond Ridder? It’s too early to tell. The first four games of his career were uninspiring, to say the least. But they were four games, with two and a half of them coming against aggressive, attacking defenses. Still, 73 of 115 passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns is not blowing the doors off of anybody in the building in Flowery Branch.

Which leads me to say that anybody advocating for Lamar to come in, I understand the sentiments. When you have the quarterback, especially this young, you can build around him for years to come. There’s not going to be many 26-year-old former MVPs hitting the quarterback market anytime soon. Not to mention that he would make this a top-five offense in the conference when you pair him with Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Tyler Allgeier.

I mean, if Trae likes him…

The Team Has To Work To The Quarterback’s Strength

Going into this game, I thought this was going to be a battle of team-building ideologies. The Philadelphia Eagles built the roster around the quarterback, both offensively and defensively. Plug in second-year Jalen Hurts and task him to prove that he can be the guy going forward.

While the Chiefs put their faith in their special Reid-Mahomes pairing. Build a team that is good enough to compete at the highest level, so long as they have that special pairing at head coach and quarterback.

Essentially, both sides of the Lamar Jackson-Desmond Ridder civil war that Atlanta Falcons fans were debating before the Super Bowl started and probably will continue to debate well into free agency.

Watching this game, both sides are correct. Whether they decide to splurge and spend on Lamar or stay put with Ridder and build the rest of the roster around the quarterback position, the Falcons have placed themselves in a position to compete soon. Side note, Arthur Blank has given his stamp of approval on the young gun from Cincinnati as the starter. We’ll see in the coming weeks how much weight that holds in the final decision.

In both instances, the Falcons brass will have to fill out the other 52 pieces on this roster to bolster what the quarterback does well. Remember, Mahomes finished with fewer than 200 yards. The first Super Bowl winner to do so since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset in 2016.

His defense stepped up and kept them in the game by stealing a score with a scoop-and-score by Nick Bolton. Not to mention holding this vaunted Eagles offense to 14 points over their last five possessions. Thus, giving their own high-powered offense a chance to win late.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder
Photo Credit: Casey Sykes/Atlanta Falcons

Final Thoughts

The Atlanta Falcons are getting closer and closer to executing their plan. They’ve withstood the barrage of criticism that has come from back-to-back losing seasons to start this regime’s tenure. It’s time to turn it around. The question will remain — at least until this Lamar situation is settled — what is the best way to go about competing this year and beyond?

If we do go the Lamar route, how do we go about fixing this historically awful defense? Can we trust what we have with Desmond Ridder after his first four starts left the fan-base wanting more from the quarterback position?

It’s time for this regime to execute their plan and get back into playoff contention. Atlanta Falcons fans are tired of sitting on the sideline in late January and February, watching others battle it out for the title of “Super Bowl Champion”. It’s time for the Atlanta Falcons to find (or develop) the quarterback who will lead them back to the Super Bowl.

Senior Bowl Prospects to Watch for the Atlanta Falcons

The Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile opened some eyes to names that you will see come off of the boards mostly in days two and three of the NFL Draft. While the bulk of the Atlanta Falcons scouting brass was in Las Vegas for the Shrine Bowl, we were down here scoping out some of these mid-to-late-round talents at the Senior Bowl.

Every single one of the players that came down to Mobile should be on your big board somewhere. They all came down to Mobile and competed mightily. However, there were five prospects that jumped out that Atlanta Falcons fans should keep their eyes on from this year’s Senior Bowl.

Senior Bowl Prospects the Atlanta Falcons Should Watch

Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech

With the hire of Ryan Nielsen, expect the defensive line of the Falcons to get bigger everywhere. That includes on the outside. It is apparent that Nielsen has a type when it comes to getting pressure from the outside. Nielsen wants bigger, more physical guys on the edge.

Enter Keion White. The Georgia Tech edge may have made himself a bit too valuable for the Atlanta Falcons to pick him up at pick 44 with his play at the Senior Bowl. But, if he is there expect Atlanta to pull the trigger. He is a strong, physical presence on the outside with some good lateral quickness that lends itself to immediate value in the run game.

Jammie Robinson, Safety, Florida State

This is more of a safety valve, no pun intended, in case the Falcons don’t get Jessie Bates in free agency. Jammie Robinson has shown a physicality this week that new assistant head coach, Jerry Gray, would covet in the back end of the defense.

Gray was spoiled back in Green Bay with the duo of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. With the versatility of both Robinson and Grant in the back end, Gray should be able to get creative with how he can run his coverage. Not to mention that both of them are threats to rush the passer if in the box.

Keeanu Benton, Interior Defensive Lineman, Wisconsin

Benton showed a bevy of pass-rush moves throughout the week and was a nightmare in one-on-ones. He has violent hands and some explosion that a man his size (6’3″, 312 pounds) should not have. He moves smooth laterally and is steadily improving as a pass rusher.

Benton also has an extremely high motor. A trait that would be perfect to match with the likes of Ta’Quon Graham and Grady Jarrett. Everyone knows how difficult it has been to get to the quarterback recently for Atlanta defenses. Benton would be a nice step in the right direction to fixing that.

Jayden Reed, Wide Receiver, Michigan State

Okay, that’s enough defense. The Falcons are squarely in the wide receiver market and they need speed. Or at least some type of explosiveness. A solid route-runner could help as well. Well, you get all three with Jayden Reed.

In this draft, there are a slew of day two wide receivers that are going to be instant producers in the NFL. From Xavier Hutchinson and Rashee Rice (who both also had great weeks) to Zay Flowers and Josh Downs. With his performance this week, Reed cemented himself in that conversation.

He is an absolute burner, hitting a top speed of 20.03 MPH. A savvy and explosive route-runner would do wonders for opening up Arthur Smith’s passing game.

John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

Finally, we have the big bully of the Senior Bowl. Will we be able to draft him? Who knows. Schmitz really showed out this week and cemented himself as the top center in this draft. If the Atlanta Falcons were at the Senior Bowl, you would probably see Arthur Smith and OL coach Dwayne Ledford salivating over Schmitz and his ability to anchor.

He showed an ability to finish his blocks in pass protection that the Falcons do need in the interior. Not to mention his ability to move in space. In the team drills, he impressed me with his ability to move laterally after snapping the football. Schmitz could easily have a good career in the NFL, maybe in Atlanta.

Other Senior Bowl Names to Watch

Darius Rush, cornerback, South Carolina

Kenny McIntosh, running back, Georgia

Daiyan Henley, linebacker, Washington State

Trey Palmer, wide receiver, Nebraska

Josh Whyle, tight end, Cincinnati

Senior Bowl Day Three Risers and Fallers: American Team

It’s the third and final day of practices at the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl for the American Team down in Mobile, Alabama. Which means another day of covering the risers and fallers from each Senior Bowl squad.

There were plenty of guys who rode the momentum from their first two days of practice. There were also those that turned it on after the rust of inactivity from the end of their college seasons finally dissipated.

Lastly, and unfortunately, we do have those who either didn’t live up to the billing or, worse, fell even further with their subpar performance on the final day of practice. 

Senior Bowl Risers: Day Three

Photo Credit: Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

Jammie Robinson, Florida State

Robinson had another great day of coverage today. He was constantly around the football in team and red-zone drills. There was a play where he ranged from the middle of the field to the hash and almost intercepted the football (Darius Rush ended up with the interception) and it was telling about his improvement as a center field safety.

He showed a lot better range and man-coverage ability than he did at Florida State. Look for him to make a play or two on Saturday during the 2023 Senior Bowl game for the American team.

Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State

Well, it happened. As soon as Hutchinson’s play was in question, he proceeded to show up and show out in day three. He was making contested catches and creating easy separation against everyone. Any rust that he had from the first two days has been completely knocked off, and I can’t wait to see how he performs in the game Saturday

Darius Rush, South Carolina

Rush had a couple of flashes the first two days but it all culminated on day three. He was sticky in both one-on-ones and team reps. He was physical at the top of routes and repeatedly beat receivers to the spot. That led to two interceptions and multiple pass deflections. Rush has been an up-and-down guy, but today he put it all together and left a great impression.

Don’Tayvion Wicks, Virginia

Wicks has been a solid guy all week, but he really put it together today. He repeatedly was getting early separation and showcased a really diverse package of releases. From step-back releases to two- and three-step releases, he kept defensive backs guessing from the snap of the ball to the top of the break. He did a great job giving his quarterbacks an easy target. 

John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before: John Michael Schmitz has completely dominated the Senior Bowl. He’s shown unreal anchoring ability and fantastic play strength at the center position. He simply has been the best offensive lineman at the 2023 Senior Bowl this season.

Aubrey Miller, Jr., Jackson State

Miller, Jr. has shown so much physicality throughout this week, but he hadn’t put it all together yet. Today, he continuously brought the energy in every one of his reps. He impressed with his motor while coming downhill and his ability to get into the backfield in the run game.

Tyjae Spears, Tulane

I refuse to go three days without saying how much Tyjae Spears has shown his explosiveness and raised his stock. He has been one of the more consistent running backs in the fact that he is a threat to score whenever he touches the football.

He still has some struggles with pass blocking but you can see the strides he’s taking as a receiver. He is constantly improving and I do hope to see even more improvement at the game on Saturday.

Senior Bowl Fallers: Day Three

Photo Credit: Associated Press/LM Otero

Max Duggan, TCU

Please do not be fooled by whatever may be talked about, Max Duggan has not been good throughout this week. Duggan has looked shaky this entire week and it has looked no better today. He repeatedly overthrew receivers and missed layup throws that, yet again, he was expected to hit throughout the week. I hope that on Saturday he shows more in front of the scouts, but he did not do well throughout this week. At all.

Anthony Johnson, Jr., Virginia

After having a really good day yesterday, Johnson, Jr. really had an off day today. He was far too handsy throughout the day and was getting beat at the top of routes too easily. Johnson didn’t win many of his reps in one-on-ones and struggled keeping up with receivers in both team and red-zone today. 

Isaiah Land, Florida A&M

The coaching staff for the American team seemed to not like Land at EDGE and had him playing in off-ball linebacker all day. While this may not be an omen for his NFL projection, it is something to watch as he goes through the draft process.

He clearly looked uncomfortable at the position but, in his defense, it was a snap decision and a new experience for the Florida A&M product. It will be interesting to see if NFL teams are going to want to do the same throughout his process. 

Honorable Mentions

Here are some final notable names for the American team here at the 2023 Senior Bowl. Zacch Pickens had another really good day in team drills and got good penetration in the middle of the line. Byron Young (Tennessee) was another guy who dominated in team drills as he beat guys to the spot very easily. Derick Hall had another day where he showed his strength and that coveted long arm in team drills.

All About Perspective: The 2022 Atlanta Falcons

This week is one of the more depressing weeks of the season for an NFL franchise and its fans. For the 2022 Atlanta Falcons, this is the week when the franchise is officially eliminated from playoff contention. This season has been a nauseatingly entertaining roller coaster.

Sometimes they were fun and exciting. Other times, you would want to grab a bucket and let everything you’re feeling out in one fell swoop. However, when it comes to this year’s team, one thing matters more than anything: Perspective. We will discuss the two different yet equally valid points of view on this season and how this franchise can move forward.

“The greatest tragedy for any human being is going through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.”

Doug Baldwin

The 2022 Atlanta Falcons: All About Perspective

Desmond Ridder, the starting QB of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons
Photo Credit: Michael Owens/Getty Images

Surface-Level View of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons

On the surface, the 2022 Atlanta Falcons are a team who started hot and fizzled out as the year progressed. 

After eight weeks of teetering around the .500 mark, the dam finally broke. The Falcons would lose six of their next seven games. All but one would end up being one-possession games — the one being the horrendous Thursday night game in Carolina. 

Until Week 12, the Falcons were 5-6 and still active in the playoff race in the lowly NFC South. With Tom Brady struggling, the Saints looking like they deserve the paper bags again, and the Panthers firing their coach mid-season, this was the chance. The Falcons could sneak their way into the playoffs.

Instead, they would end up losing four straight.

The passing game sputtered and stagnated with the loss of Kyle Pitts in that same Week 11 game against the Chicago Bears. The offense became predictable. The defense was as porous as it had been all year. This team was going nowhere. Enter rookie Desmond Ridder. 

After a dramatic quarterback carousel this off-season, we toss in the third-round rookie to get him some reps before the season ends. But the writing is clearly on the wall. The season is over.

The offense essentially resets. The defense has not improved as the defensive line gets pushed off the ball without second-year standout Ta’Quon Graham.

Just as Grady Jarrett stated: “Same s***, different year.” Frustrating isn’t the word anymore. This season would mark five straight without a postseason appearance.

The fans deserve more. The players deserve more. 

No matter the perspective, there is nothing to get excited about with the 2022 Atlanta Falcons.

Below-The-Surface View

Let’s start this section with a qualifier: This iteration of the Atlanta Falcons was never supposed to sniff playoff contention. 

The NFC South’s incompetence lends itself to Atlanta’s playoff chances more than the play of any Atlanta Falcons player (except maybe the improved offensive line and running game).

This roster is filled with rookies on their first contracts and veterans working for better contracts in the next year or two. They are dead last in cap spending on the defensive side of the football. 

The vision was for 2022 to be another evaluation/throwaway year as the Falcons got rid of their insane dead cap number. The Bucs were supposed to run away with the division. Then, midseason, the Falcons throw in Desmond Ridder to see if he is the quarterback of the future.

With the Bucs and everyone else in the division taking a step back, Arthur Smith was placed firmly between a rock and a hard place. Does he bench the veteran and reset the offense with a rookie quarterback amid a possible playoff run? No. You ride it out with the veteran that has kept you in contention until you are no longer. 

Would we rather have seen Ridder? One-hundred percent. If there is a question at the quarterback position, you answer that question as soon as you can.

But Arthur deserves a bit of grace with the handling of this season. This roster initially overachieved from their pre-season projections, where this team was “buried” in the graveyard of mediocrity. They kept themselves in contention for as long as Mariota could manage. When the offense hit that eventual wall, Mariota was ousted, and Ridder was placed and given his shot to be the future quarterback.

What’s Next?

Before we can end, there is still the matter of the last two games for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons, which also requires some perspective.

It would be great, in theory, for the Falcons to cement themselves in the top-five in this NFL draft. With the quarterback class, teams could look to the Falcons as potential trade-up candidates. Or the Falcons could stay put and pick up a much-needed defensive anchor to help elevate this defense. 

There is just one caveat: The Falcons would need to lose to the Arizona Cardinals. A loss that would mean that Desmond Ridder got out-dueled by Trace McSorley. And then follow that up with a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady, who, if you have forgotten, has never lost a game to the Atlanta Falcons.

Or, the Falcons could win both games, and Desmond Ridder cements himself as the quarterback of the future (at least through 2023). But their draft stock plummets to as low as 13.

No matter what happens to end the season for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons, the next two weeks, and the off-season are going to set the stage for the future of this franchise.

“Every problem has a solution; it may sometimes just need another perspective.”

Katherine Russell