2018 Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart
|Quarterback||Matt Ryan||Matt Schaub|
|Running Back||Devonta Freeman||Ito Smith||Kenjon Barner|
|Left Wide Receiver||Julio Jones||Mohamed Sanu||Russell Gage|
|Right Wide Receiver||Calvin Ridley||Justin Hardy||Christian Blake|
|Tight End||Austin Hooper||Luke Stocker||Logan Paulsen|
|Full Back||Ricky Ortiz|
|Left Tackle||Jake Matthews|
|Left Guard||James Carpenter||Wes Schweitzer|
|Right Guard||Jamon Brown||Brandon Fusco|
|Right Tackle||Ty Sambrailo||Matt Gono|
Atlanta’s real lack of a Super Bowl hangover coming off of the 28-3 debacle in SB LI was really overshadowed by the team’s loss of offensive coordinator, boy genius Kyle Shanahan, to the San Francisco 49ers. Shanahan was replaced with Steve Sarkisian. A move that retroactively has been viewed by many as a disaster, really wasn’t all that bad.
Matt Ryan’s individual numbers may have been down compared to previous seasons, but in reality, they were right in line with his career numbers – the team finished 9th in offensive efficiency by Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Ryan was the 7th rated quarterback by DVOA). Sark and Ryan’s connection can only expect to improve in 2017.
The Falcons defense was also down in 2017, ranking 22nd in defensive efficiency by DVOA (but an increase from 2016’s 26th). All this said, the 2017 Falcons won 10 games plus a playoff win over the Rams. In the defense’s defense, they managed were better down the stretch last year and held the Rams – the NFL’s #1 offense in 2017 – to only 13 points in the playoff win.
The 2018 offseason was relatively quiet in Atlanta. Taylor Gabriel’s receiver slot was replaced by first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley from Alabama. Adrian Clayborn joined New England and Dontari Poe left for Carolina. All of Atlanta’s main core remains intact and poised for another playoff push, even in the loaded NFC South.
People forget that Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan didn’t immediately click. Remember this mic’d up clip from 2015, Ryan’s first year in Shanahan’s system? The next season was Atlanta’s offensive explosion, in which Ryan threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns in route to an MVP. We’re not here to say that the same second year explosion is going to happen with Ryan and Sarkisian, and I want to be clear that we’re not comparing Sark and Shanahan, but it’s easy to understand how Ryan’s second year with Sarkisian calling plays should go more smoothly than 2017.
General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has been one of the better drafters over the past handful of years, and that seems to have played out again in 2018, with the selection of first-round receiver Calvin Ridley out of Alabama. It’s worth noting that Ridley was one of the older players in the draft – at 23, turning 24 in December, he’s only six months younger than Amari Cooper – but he’s looked the part so far in preseason play. Sliding Ridley alongside a receiving corps including superstar Julio Jones and underrated Y receiver Mohamed Sanu, not to mention two running backs in Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (both capable receivers) makes this offense incredibly potent.
Along the line, not only did Atlanta bring back every starter from 2017, resigning Jake Matthews to a $72 million-dollar deal in July, but they added veteran guard Brandon Fusco, who may be an upgrade at right guard over Wes Schweitzer. It’s one of the highest paid offensive lines in the league, and may be the best line Atlanta has had in years. It’s ability to keep Matt Ryan’s pocket clean could be the difference for him to return to his 2016 MVP form.
The Falcons front seven took a bit of a hit this offseason, losing two starters upfront with defensive tackle Dontari Poe and edge rusher Adrian Clayborn to free agency. These losses shouldn’t hurt too much, as it allows for bigger roles for Takk McKinley (a first round pick in 2017) and Grady Jarrett (PFF’s 5th DT in run defense in 2017).
In the middle, Deion Jones made his first pro-bowl last season, amassing a wild line of 138 tackles (10 for a loss), and three interceptions. He was PFF’s 4th rated linebacker in the league in 2017. He’ll be paired alongside De’Vondre Campbell, who was great last year in coverage on tight ends. More time together for these two can only lead to more and more positive things.
The secondary may be one of the deeper position groups on this team. Atlanta drafted Isiah Oliver in the second round of the draft and brought in free agent Justin Bethel to back up Desmond Trufant and, Robert Alford and Brian Poole. At safety, Keanu Neal is one of the most fun, young and under the radar safeties to watch in the league.