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

Atlanta Falcons Name Desmond Ridder Starting QB

Atlanta Falcons fans rejoice. Desmond Ridder has been named the new starting QB of the Atlanta Falcons, per multiple sources. This marks the end of the Marcus Mariota era in Atlanta after 13 games. 

Mariota’s 2022 season will end with him going 184/300 (61.3%) with 2,219 passing yards, 15 TDs, and nine interceptions. He also ran 85 times for 438 yards and four touchdowns. 

Falcons QB Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder
Photo Credit: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Desmond Ridder Named Atlanta Falcons Starting QB

Media pundits and football fans alike were expecting this move after another underwhelming performance from Marcus Mariota, which was to be expected. When Mariota was brought in back in late March, he was not to be the answer to the quarterback position. He was employed to keep the seat warm for whomever might be the answer. Poor play from the rest of the NFC South division has kept Atlanta in playoff contention, despite talent deficiencies throughout the roster. Which kept Marcus Mariota as the starter to keep continuity within the offense.

With the bye week adding extra time for familiarity with the starting role and the Falcons needing a spark going into the more difficult part of their schedule, Arthur Smith decided to input the upstart rookie Desmond Ridder. Can he run this offense just as effectively, if not more, than Mariota? What are his limitations in an NFL setting? What are his strengths?

Falcons fans have been mulling over these questions since being drafted with the 74th pick this year. There will soon be answers to these burning questions, starting with his first start against Atlanta’s fiercest rival: The New Orleans Saints. How will the four-year starter and two-time AAC Player of the Year handle the pressure of one of the most hostile environments for an Atlanta Falcons quarterback? Especially against one of the more highly-touted defenses in the league?

There are so many questions that can be asked about Desmond Ridder. And there are so few answers up to this point — that is a fact. But it is a start to answering the important question: Who is the franchise quarterback of this team?

What This Means For 2022

This move by the Falcons’ brass is a look towards the future of this team, way beyond the finish of this 2022 season. But there is a conversation to be had about what the move to make Desmond Ridder the starting QB of the Atlanta Falcons means for the rest of the 2022 season.

We will start the conversation with this: Temper your expectations for Desmond Ridder.

If you go into these last four games expecting anything other than the typical rookie quarterback struggles, you will be disappointed. There will be flashes of good play, stretches of confusing decisions, and the inevitable “What are you looking at?” throws that come with playing a rookie quarterback. Especially when you look at the teams he will be playing against.

The Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all have top-15 defenses in terms of defensive DVOA. They are top-12 in defensive passing DVOA, mainly due to their ability to get to and rattle quarterbacks. Baltimore and New Orleans have the seventh and 13th best pass rushes in terms of sacks per dropback. Tampa showed in the first matchup that they had no troubles getting to the passer, with five sacks on Mariota.

He may get a break from a struggling Arizona Cardinals defense that is giving up the second-most points-per-game this season. But even then, there may be struggles, as it will only be his third game starting in the NFL.

This transition is going to have its bumps and bruises. The NFL is a faster game, a more physical game than Ridder would have experienced in the AAC. But I do believe that starting him now is giving him the best opportunity that he will ever have to succeed.

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.

Do the Atlanta Falcons have a quarterback dilemma?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota prepares to throw a pass during a preseason game against the New York Jets.
Photo Credit: USATSI

The Atlanta Falcons have started the season off to a 2-2 start (should probably be 3-1, but who’s counting?). This has surprised many fans and media members who expected the Falcons to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s been a different look for the Falcons this season as they have been carried from a powerful rushing attack lead by journeyman running back Cordarrelle Patterson who has quickly become a fan favorite in Atlanta.

As much as there is to talk about in terms of the running game, that hasn’t been the talking point of most Falcons Twitter pundits. The biggest point of conversation for the Falcons has been the lackluster quarterback play. Many expected drop off in the quarterback position when the Falcons chose to move on from Falcons legend Matt Ryan.

Under Matt Ryan’s leadership at the quarterback position the Falcons were consistently one of the top passing attacks ranked in the top 10 in passing yards almost every season. But that era has come in gone and many people were hesitant about the Falcons quarterback plans moving forward.

The Falcons went and signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year, $18.5 million deal to be a bridge quarterback while the Falcons looked for the heir to the throne. Mariota has been pretty average according to some metrics; per ESPN and PlayerProfiler, Mariota is:

  • Passer Rating of 91.5 (ESPN)
  • Adjusted QB Rating of 49.6 for 15th in the league (ESPN)
  • RAW QB Rating of 48.6 for 17th in the league (ESPN)
  • Completion Percentage of 58.2% (ESPN)
  • PAA is -0.4 for 17th in the league(ESPN)
  • EPA is 12.2 for 20th in the league (ESPN)
  • He’s thrown five “interceptable” passes for 23rd in the league (PlayerProfiler)
  • True Completion Percentage of 63.3% for 29th in the league (PlayerProfiler)
  • Clean Pocket Completion Percentage of 65.7 for 23rd in the league (PlayerProfiler)

That’s not even counting his seven turnovers this season which is good for second in the league only behind former Falcon Matt Ryan. None of these stats are acceptable for a long-term plan at the quarterback position in today’s NFL when elite quarterbacks are what bring you championships.

The Falcons don’t have to purely rely on Marcus Mariota though, they do have another quarterback on roster who some are calling for to be named the starter. And that is rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, the Falcons third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

What are the traits that would make a third round rookie better than an experienced starter? The advocates for Ridder argue that he’s just as, if not better than, the level of play that the Falcons are currently receiving from Marcus Mariota. Some point to Ridder’s collegiate production which is one of the best collegiate careers of recent history.

In Ridder’s collegiate career he went above and beyond to help put Cincinnati on the map. Furthermore, he led the Bearcats to the College Football playoff as the first ever Group of Five school. During that time, Ridder also established himself as a perennial winner at Cincinnati with a 44-6 record ( 26-0 at home).

His senior year stat line? 3,334 yards 30 TD’s and eight interceptions with another 355 yards and six scores on the ground. Ridder showed in college that he has skillset that works and wins in similar ways to Mariota. So why isn’t Ridder starting? Coming into the draft, it seemed that Ridder struggled with some mechanical aspects, but the preseason showed some improvement. Alas, it seems the Falcons are in no rush to bring in the rookie, meticulously planning his development.

But what is that plan that the Falcons have for their quarterback position? Should they keep rolling out Mariota for the rest of the season while in the middle of a potential playoff push even with below average quarterback play? Do they risk throwing the team out of rhythm with a rookie? These are the questions that are being asked and leads me to ask:

Do the Atlanta Falcons have a quarterback dilemma?