Who Were the 2022 Atlanta Falcons?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder
Kyle Hess/Atlanta Falcons

Happy New Year and congratulations on surviving the experience formally known as the 2022 Atlanta Falcons. For most, January symbolizes new beginnings, but for the Falcons it routinely marks the end of their season. In a rebuilding year, the Dirty Birds posted their second straight 7-10 record under Arthur Smith and finished last in the NFC South. Not great, but they far exceeded the expectations many had for them entering the season.

Regular viewers of the team know the final wins and losses don’t begin to tell the story of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons’ season. Atlanta was entering the year with the largest dead cap in league history ($83,686,690) , a thin roster, a bridge quarterback and a rookie third-round quarterback. All coming off the heels of an offseason that saw the pursuit of Deshaun Watson, and the trading of franchise cornerstone Matt Ryan.

It was a tough scene and winning expectations weren’t realistic for this team. These players and coaches deserve credit for defying those odds.

In spite of that, when we look back at this season it may be defying these very odds that cost the team something very precious: time. Atlanta had a lot of questions entering 2022, and they’re going to leave with few of them answered. Let’s reflect on the season and begin an ever-evolving discussion about the Falcons as they head into the offseason.

Was it worth it?

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us. Arthur Smith chose to ride with Marcus Mariota until Week 14 of this NFL season. After starting 3-3 and being in 1st place of the NFC South; the Falcons went on a 2-5 spiral. During this spiral, many called for the start of Desmond Ridder, but the allure of the playoffs was too much for Arthur Smith and he stood by his veteran QB.

As Dishonored’s Lady Emily Kaldwin said, “It’s a funny thing, ambition. It can take one to sublime heights or harrowing depths. And sometimes they are one and the same.” It was great to be in that position, but after the loss to the Panthers, the Falcons had a 10-day window before facing the Chicago Bears and it feels like an opportunity was wasted.

This felt like a prime opportunity to insert the rookie QB but the Falcons still “controlled their destiny” and the Ridderssance was put on hold. Arthur Smith didn’t give a damn about anyone’s “rebuilding year”. The Falcons beat the Bears, but ended up losing the next two, eliminating them from the playoffs as they headed into the bye week. 

Afterwards, many got what they wanted and it proved to not be enough. It’s impossible to give a fair evaluation on a four-game sample size. At the very least, I can say there was no drop in quarterback play, which is a positive. Beyond that is where things start to get tricky.

Outside of a rough first game, Ridder showed he can at least be the QB2 of this offense, with flashes that showcased QB1 ability. Objectively, the only thing that could be said for sure is that he should’ve been playing earlier. By going this route, Atlanta’s young regime has almost boxed themselves into a corner when it comes to their 2023 QB situation.

The assumption is Ridder is going to start in 2023. The argument to play Ridder for the 2023 season and forgo drafting a quarterback high — or acquiring a starter via free agency — is valid. Ridder had few games to showcase himself and was without tight end Kyle Pitts, leaving fellow rookie Drake London as his best option.

Ridder didn’t have any turnovers. He led a game winning drive and scored his first two TDs against Tom Brady. Alternatively, Ridder faced three subpar/injured defenses and didn’t dominate against any of them. The one good defense he did face crushed him — but this was also his first start as a pro.

It doesn’t really feel like Ridder has won the job, but he hasn’t lost it either. Getting a longer look at him in 2022 could’ve given the Atlanta Falcons, and their fans, more confidence one way or the other heading into the offseason.

It’s hard to imagine Arthur Smith starting over with another rookie — one rebuilding year was enough. There are a lot of vets hitting the market this offseason and Atlanta is going to add one of them. Marcus Mariota is not likely to be back and Ridder needs competition in camp.

It’s a huge risk for this staff to put all their chips on a third round prospect, but it’s probably the best move they have right now. The pressure to build the right team around him is high. Luckily they have an entire offseason and empty check book to work with. But it’s easier said than done when it comes to roster building in the NFL.

Do you remember these 2022 Atlanta Falcons moments?

Remember Kyle Pitts’s first touchdown at home (and on U.S. soil)?

It’s the joke that’s never going away until proven otherwise. Seeing Kyle Pitts get his first home touchdown of the season in Week 6 against the 49ers was both relieving and frustrating. Frustration describes Pitts year two all together.

Missed opportunities with Mariota at quarterback and an increase in blocking duties had fans worried about the unicorn tight end. Eventually Pitts’ season ended in the Chicago Bears game with a torn MCL. Seeing Ridder with Drake London made many fans wonder what could have been, but we must wait until next season to see if Ridder can help Pitts regain his rookie dominance.

Pitts is an important part of this team’s future; one down season in a rebuilding year shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Remember when the Falcons closed out games with their defense?

No, it didn’t happen a lot but it’s more than zero, which is what fans are used to experiencing. In Seattle, we saw a clutch Grady Jarrett sack followed by a Richie Grant interception to close the door on what turned out to be a playoff team. The very next week versus Cleveland, Grady got another sack on the final 3rd down of the game. This was once again followed by an interception, this time by standout newcomer Dee Alford.

Remember Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate?

Friendly Reminder: The preseason is a wild time when no one should be taken seriously. When we look back at this saga of the 2022 season for the Atlanta Falcons, everyone should remember that everything was said with good intentions, and that’s all that matters.

Remember when the offensive line was bad?

Atlanta’s offensive line play became the story of the season for all the right reasons. We saw Kaleb McGary take a huge step forward in a contract year. Drew Dalman replaced veteran Matt Hennessey, and Elijah Wilkinson became the first Falcons bargain offensive line signing to pay off. 

Meanwhile, old faithful Jake Matthews anchored down the left side. Chris Lindstrom’s season was special and he should be receiving his first of many All-Pro selections this year. Even so, the biggest round of applause goes to OL Coach Dwayne Ledford.

Ledford has brought stability to the offensive line and was an integral part in one of the best turnarounds fans have witnessed in recent memory. This is only the beginning for the OL, who still have an opportunity to improve with free agency and the draft ahead.

Remember when Grady’s clean sack was called roughing the passer?

There’s not much else to add; the film is still maddening to this day. Oh, and don’t forget, this was one of two kick attempts by Tom Brady on Jarrett in this game.

Rookie of the Year

These are the types of picks you have to hit on in a rebuilding year. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t anticipate this season from fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier. He is undoubtedly the team’s rookie of the year, and he deserves national attention for the league award as well.

Falcons coaching staff and fans saw the growth of Allgeier throughout the season, and he took off when the team needed him most. Cordarrelle Patterson was put on injured reserve and Allegeir never really let go of the RB1 title after that.

With seven official starts under his belt, he finished the season with 1,035 yards | 4.9 Y/A | 4 TDs, setting the new Falcons rookie rushing record. He is also the first Falcon since Devonta Freeman in 2016 with a 1,000 yard season. A true draft gem, Allgeier will be treasured in Atlanta for years to come.

Defensive Culture (Still Under Construction)

Let’s just call this season a wash, especially now that Dean Pees has announced his retirement. We’ve established that 2022 was a rebuilding year for the Atlanta Falcons. Well, no unit proved that more than this one. Everything that was said about this defensive roster preseason was true. Early injuries exposed a lack of depth and talent immediately.

The unit did have its best PPG mark since 2017, but teams moved the ball on them at will. All levels of the defense have glaring holes, and it’s clear this side of the ball needs the most resources poured into it.

On the bright side, Grady Jarrett returned to his elite standard and rookies Arnold Ebiketie and Troy Andersen showed flashes that make them look like legitimate roster pieces. AJ Terrell didn’t have a repeat All-Pro season, but he did show that he’s a level corner in this league and not a one-year wonder.

The Falcons are going to have a brand new defensive coordinator, and they will have the rare opportunity of signing players for their system almost immediately, which should make the transition to life without Dean Pees a little easier.

Where does Atlanta go from here?

Like I said at the beginning, the Falcons are leaving this season with many questions unanswered and the most difficult part of the rebuilding year starts now. It’s easy to brush off losing consecutive seasons when you consider the circumstances to begin with for this regime. That changes now. The cap is clear and the expectations are to win.

It’s easy to simulate free agency on Twitter or through a mock simulator, but people and teams are unpredictable. Furthermore, there’s a long offseason ahead. I do think Ridder will be QB1, but I’m not sure if he’s the answer for the future yet.

Fans have waited all this time for the fresh start to be here, and now its arrival presents more questions. Those questions will be answered by the time summer mini-camp begins. By then, we’ll replace them with new questions and the cycle continues.

For now though, just process the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season however you need. Play highlights. Act like it never happened. Whatever you need, because this season doesn’t matter. That’s one of the few perks of a rebuilding year: this season was a necessary evil. The Falcons wouldn’t be set up as well as they are now heading into the offseason. It’s only the beginning and hopefully they can capitalize.

Thank you for reading. You can find me on Twitter: @tre3shon

Deion Jones Saga: Atlanta Falcons Trade Linebacker to Cleveland

After many wondering what the status of Deion Jones would be after completing the four week IR requirement, the Atlanta Falcons have found the solution: a trade. According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Falcons have dealt him to the Cleveland Browns.

Current terms are unknown, but believed to be an exchange for late round draft compensation. Jones has been with the Falcons since 2016 and was one of the last remaining hold overs from the Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn era.

Jones never seemed to find his footing in Dean Pees’s defense and his contract started to be a point of contention for many fans. While the play of Jones had dipped, he was a certified star during the early days of the Quinn era. He was an interception machine and if not for injuries, his dominance may have continued to reign.

We wish Deion Jones all the best in his new venture with the Browns in the wake of this trade. So let’s remember the good times and watch one of his more memorable interceptions below.

What do you think about the Falcons decision to trade Deion Jones? Let us know in the comments, and follow the entire ATB Falcons crew @falcons_atb on Twitter!

Earth, Wind, and Fire: The Atlanta Falcons Potentially Deadly Running Back Trio

The Atlanta Falcons deadly trio in their running back room behind their backup artists in the offensive line.
Photo Credit: @tre3shon

“Running back by committee” isn’t some ahead of the curve concept like it was in 2008, when the New York Giants burst onto the scene with their three-headed monster attack (screams: say, do you remember). It’s almost standard in todays modern NFL. However, the Atlanta Falcons have had a more traditional bell cow approach with running back Cordarrelle Patterson. Sadly, that approach is now on hold for at least four weeks since Patterson was placed on IR. Could this spell trouble for the Falcons run game, or could this be the beginning of a new deadly trio?

We got a small taste of what life without Patterson could like and to be honest, it looked like a lot of fun (but please Cordarrelle, get back soon). In this article, we’ll decipher who the Earth, Wind and Fire of this potentially deadly trio are.

Earth: Caleb Huntley

The bruiser from Ball State is undoubtably the Earth of this running back trio for the Atlanta Falcons. Caleb Huntley looks like he eats nails for breakfast and has the running style to back it up. Once I saw that he was too swole to griddy, I knew the Falcons had a true power back on their hands.

Making his second appearance on the 53-man roster this year, Huntley took full advantage of his opportunity. He posted an impressive 10 ATT/56 YDS/1 TD stat line (per Pro Football Reference). At one point, Huntley had six straight runs, and by the end of it, you could see the Browns were sick of trying to tackle him. Look for the bruiser to be used just as often if not more next week against a tough Tampa front.

Wind: Tyler Allgeier

The rookie from BYU is the Wind of this potentially deadly trio. Tyler Allgeier profiles as more of a traditional every down back, and he displayed these skills this past Sunday. Not only did the rookie go for 10 attempts for 84 yards (8.4 YPC per Pro Football Reference), but he also hauled in a 20-yard reception. Not to mention, he also drug Grant Delpit on his back for 10 yards.

This kind of play is what many Atlanta Falcons fans had been hoping for after the running back was selected in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft. He’s listed as the RB1 on the roster heading into Tampa Bay, so expect to see Allgeier early and often.

Fire: Avery Williams

Nobody embodies the role of Fire for the Atlanta Falcons better than former Boise State returner and defensive back to running back convert, Avery Williams. It’s taken Avery a few weeks to find his role in this offense, and we should expect that trend to continue as he gets more comfortable with his new position. He’s mainly just been catching short passes and operating as a decoy.

That being said, fans have seen flashes from the player on special teams returns and this past week, it finally manifested on the offensive side of the ball. The gadget back had one explosive run for 21 yards to go along with his 18 yard punt return (per Pro Football Reference). While that’s not exactly a sustainable statistic to take to the bank, it’s a sign that he’s getting more comfortable in the offense.

Deadly Trio or One-Hit Wonders?

It’s going to take more than just one game to answer that question. The new committee will have at least four weeks to show what they’ve got while Patterson rests up. One thing that will help is the continued and much improved offensive line play.

A band is nothing without its backup singers and instrumentalist and none have been more instrumental to this running attack than them. Atlanta could have the makings of a classic band on their hands, only time will tell.

Thanks for reading and follow the Falcons – ATB account.

The Atlanta Falcons West Coast Trip is Over, What Did We Learn?

The Atlanta Falcons west coast trip has come to an end, and the team went 1-1 on their trip. Back-to-back west coast games are notoriously tough on east coast teams, but Atlanta showed a lot of resolve. It’s still early in the year, but we’ve learned a lot about the team since their deflating Week 1 loss. I was able to attend both games and came away with a few thoughts after watching the team up close.

Drake London smiling after scoring his 2nd Touchdown of his career.
Photo Credit: Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons

Drake London is the real deal

Whether you think it’s fair or not, top 10 picks in the NFL Draft come with instant impact expectations. Well, Drake London met all of them on this Atlanta Falcons west coast trip. The rookie wide receiver had 50+ yards and a touchdown in each game, finishing with 140 yards for the entire trip. The game looks easy for Drake, and watching him from the stands I can see why. The kid is built like a freak and fits right in with Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson. London was known as a physical WR coming out of USC, and he shows it on this TD against Seattle.

The Defensive culture still hasn’t changed

Dean Pees’s now infamous rant about changing the culture of Atlanta’s defense hasn’t aged well. After a four sack game on opening weekend, the team had a combined total of three over this trip. Furthermore, the defense is giving up 27 points per game, 4.8 yards per rush, and is 27th in passing yards allowed per game at 271.3. There have, of course, been bright spots, like the play of Mykal Walker, but not enough to give fans confidence that change is finally here.

Hello run game, its been a while

The Falcons are running the ball with success at a rate we haven’t seen for some time. The team is averaging 156.7 rushing yards per game on the season, fifth-best in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons west coast trip revealed what many Falcons fans already believed: Cordarrelle Patterson IS HIM. Hurdling would-be tacklers and trucking their teammates immediately afterwards is how you win the hearts of fans.

It’s not just the highlight plays either. Patterson has done a great job of picking up tough yardage in key down-and-distance situations, like the play below against the Rams. This helped set up the touchdown that ignited the team’s comeback.

This team has resolve

This Atlanta Falcons west coast trip could’ve easily ended in a 0-2 effort. After the first three quarters of the Rams game, it looked like the team was headed for 0-17. I can tell you personally that being in SoFi Stadium when the scoreboard read 28-3 felt like the seven levels of hell. Rams fans took advantage and tormented us fans in the stadium. But then, something amazing happened — the Falcons came back.

What the team showed in the final quarter of that game was something fans needed to see. After an inept start on both sides of the ball, the team started putting together successful plays, giving themselves a chance to win in the final moment. From the stands, the energy on the sideline never wavered and felt like this team truly believed in themselves.

That’s what matters most. It felt like they carried that fight into the Seattle game where they faced an opponent that also wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

Falcons fans, take a bow

It’s not easy being a Falcons fan in any scenario, but being one at an opposing team’s stadium feels like being the clown at a kids party. Jokes are hurled at you constantly, and people genuinely find the idea of cheering for the Dirty Birds hilarious.

There really isn’t much respect for the team outside of Atlanta, but that didn’t stop fans from showing up. Fans represented well and were cheering their hearts out at both games. So often Atlanta fans are forced to take the brunt of the jokes their teams create and still consistently fight. As an attending fan, I have to say this Atlanta Falcons west coast trip was worth the price of admission.

What’s next?

The team is 1-2 and faces a tough Cleveland defense and run game next week. The Falcons are coming off their most complete game of the year, and I expect that momentum to carry over. I’m not sure what the result of the game will be, but I can confidently say they will fight until the final play.

Atlanta Falcons Preseason Week 1: Rookie Ridder, Game Winner

The Atlanta Falcons preseason started with a surprisingly fun game that featured some late-game heroics from the future star under center.

Photo Credit: Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons

Football is Back (somewhat)

I sat through the entire Atlanta Falcons’ 27-23 preseason win over the Lions (by choice) so you didn’t have to, which means, the NFL is back…kind of.

It’s only the NFL preseason; these games are meaningless on the surface, but still fans can’t help but get excited by what they see. Falcons fans are cheering after watching their new potential franchise QB Desmond Ridder put together a game-winning drive in his first NFL game.

The team witnessed a few standout players tonight, for better and for worse. Reminder, it’s only preseason and everything is written in sand, but football is back and there’s finally Falcons football to discuss.

Defense

LB Rashaan Evans showed early why he’s locked down the starting iLB position. He was running sideline to sideline and finishing tackles. You could see he was very comfortable in Dean Pees’s scheme. Coverage still needs improvement but for only a short outing, Evans impressed.

Rookie EDGE Arnold Ebiketie had some first day jitters on the opening drives, where he lost contain of the run multiple times. However, AK settled in nicely and generated pressure on multiple pass plays, something Falcons fans have been begging for. The rookie drew a hold that most likely would’ve lead to a sack and also recorded a QB hit.

DB Dee Alford was another young defender that stood out tonight. He hauled in an interception, led the team in tackles and had serviceable coverage throughout the game. He looks like he could be a depth piece for a secondary with high expectations for itself in 2022.

DB Mike Ford stood out for the wrong reasons. He played early in the game and was consistently beaten in coverage until the Lions got deeper into their reserves. This is disappointing since his name is one we’ve been hearing a lot this training camp.

Offense

QB Marcus Mariota looked the part of the calm veteran. He immediately answered the Lions opening drive touchdown with one of his own. He led the offense down the field, mostly with his legs, before capping off the drive with a diving pylon touchdown.

TE Felipe Franks didn’t live up to the hype. Franks was one of the players I was most excited to see after his recent position change and training camp stardom. The new TE recorded one big drop and a five-yard reception, underwhelming to say the least. The Felipe Franks experiment is still in its early stages.

QB Desmond Ridder stole the show today. He got more playtime than anyone and took full advantage of it. Ridder wasn’t necessarily lights out in the game, (10/22), but he showed poise in the pocket. The only negatives? An interception called back thanks to a questionable roughing the passer call and a dropped interception later in the second half. The rookie QB also had to deal with quite a few drops from his WR corps.

Still, he showed why the Falcons front office believe in his potential. Ridder showed poise in the pocket, made plays with his feet, and displayed he could run the offense how Arthur Smith envisions. All of these abilities were on display when he lead the team on a game winning drive under two minutes after a Timmy Horne fumble recovery.

What’s this all mean?

Absolutely nothing. The preseason is less of a preview and more of a dress rehearsal, especially Week 1. Take the highs and lows as they come and don’t let them ruin your week. It’s good to see your team look competent and fun, but its also good for them to get plenty of mistakes out of the way as well. There’s still a ways to go before the season begins, but it is nice starting off with a win.

Let us know your thoughts about the Falcons first preseason game on Twitter @falcons_atb.