Just two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were playing in the Superbowl. Now, they are very close to missing the playoffs, sitting 3rd in the NFC South with a 4-7 record. On paper entering the year, the Falcons were arguably a top 5 team in the NFC and maybe the league. What happened to one of the most prolific offenses in the league?
The Falcons made it through Pre-season without any major injuries, and oh boy did that last long *eye roll*. After the season opener, Keanu Neal (ACL) and Deion Jones (Foot) both announced injuries that put them on the Injured Reserve list. They had just lost their 2 leading tacklers from the previous year, and then starting Free Safety Ricardo Allen goes down (Achilles), and both starting Guards (Ankle and Tricep), and finally Star Running Back Devonta Freeman (Groin/Foot). The defense is almost all made up of under performing backups, the one exception being Da’monte Kazee, who leads the NFL in interceptions. But the team can’t rely on just the former San Diego State Aztec. Injuries have been the death of this defense, and these backups aren’t helping their cause.
#45 Deion Jones, 24, and #22 Keanu Neal, 23
Takk Mckinley has continued to improve and sits with 5.5 sacks through 10 games, and Grady Jarrett has had a solid year. There’s one guy who has been a HUGE disappointment… Vic Beasley Jr. led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016. Other than that season, he has been mediocre at best. His rookie year in 2015, he had 4 sacks and in 2017 he only had 5. Now in a contract season, Beasley only has 3 sacks, 2 of which came in 1 game versus Dallas. The former 8th overall pick went from a high performing 2nd year player, to a guy who everyone believes should be given up on. It’s unlikely that he’ll match his 2016 season as he continues to look like a 1-year wonder.
#44 Vic Beasley, 26
The offense has been the only semi-bright spot for Atlanta. Matt Ryan leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards, while Julio Jones leads the league with 1,305 receiving yards. However, the injuries to the O-line and Running Back Freeman aren’t doing the team any good. Tevin Coleman leads the league in negative yardage plays, but does have 506 yards if you want positives. Calvin Ridley, the rookie out of Alabama, has also been terrific. His name is already well known in Georgia because of his younger brother Riley, who plays receiver for the #4 ranked Georgia Bulldogs, though Calvin has made his name known throughout the league. With speed comparisons to the former Falcon Taylor Gabriel, Calvin Ridley has racked up 8 touchdowns and 625 yards. A 2018 CFB National Champion, Ridley isn’t accustomed to losing coming from Alabama. His year 2 production will be very important for a bounce-back year for the team. Fellow rookie Ito Smith has also has some great plays but overall hasn’t been enough to carry this team to wins. The offense can score, but it doesn’t matter if the other team scores more.
#11 Julio Jones, 29, and #2 Matt Ryan, 33
In the end, it’s not that we can blame injuries entirely on the Falcons poor season, but it’s the biggest reason. Hopefully this early pick in the 2019 can turn into some help on defense, maybe Dan Quinn will even draft his first Georgia Bulldog in Corner Deandre Baker. Every team has their down years. I mean…we lost to the Brown. But hey! If you’re a UGA fan, at least Nick Chubb played great, right?