The Atlanta Falcons had high expectations going into last season but were unable to live up to the hype. Atlanta got off to an abysmal 1-4 start. Early season injuries played a critical role in not achieving expectations. The loss of key players like middle linebacker Deion Jones, both starting safeties, both starting guards, and star running back Devonta Freeman. These are key starters that play a huge role in the team’s success on and off the field. Here are three things the Falcons must fix if they want to make some noise in 2019.
Protecting Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons did a poor job in protecting Matt Ryan last season. Ryan was sacked 42 times, recording the second highest of his career. Ryan was only sacked 24 times the season before last, so to go from 24 to 42 in a year is not a good sign. It’s difficult to envision the longevity of Matt Ryan’s career if he continues to take hits in the pocket. Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn addressed it this offseason. Drafting the likes of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, along with signing free agents James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Protecting Matt Ryan is the top priority and the Falcons addressed this need in a major way. Ryan still managed to have a great season, throwing for over 4,000 yards and only seven interceptions. Ryan did all this while taking a beating in the pocket all season, so imagine the type of year he can have if the offensive line can protect better.
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Running The Ball
The Falcons ranked 27th in rushing last season. This is another area that has to improve if the Falcons want to make some noise in the tough NFC South. Being able to run the ball is so important because it opens up your passing attack. The Falcons love to play action pass and in order for play action pass to work you have to be running the ball effectively. The inability to run the ball in 2018 showed when Devonta Freeman was out for the year. Freeman has to be ready to be the number one guy now that fellow running back mate Tevin Coleman has departed to San Francisco. Freeman should have some extra running room now that he has better protection in front of him. So far, injuries have been the only thing capable of slowing down the Pro Bowl running back.
Stopping the Run
The Atlanta Falcons ranked 25th in stopping the run last season. Falcons couldn’t run the ball themselves and they couldn’t stop the run very well either. Teams really took advantage of the Falcons last season, missing guys like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen really hurt because they couldn’t stop teams from running on them. 12 out of 16 games the Falcons let a team rush for more than 100 yards. The Browns and Ravens eclipsed over 200 yards rushing on the Falcons last season. Teams knew to go into the game and attack the Falcons because they knew the defense was depleted. You can’t give up 100 yards rushing in today’s NFL. With the league going into a pass-happy league if you can’t stop the run you don’t have a chance. Getting those key veteran guys back will solidify the defense once again.
The Falcons made moves this offseason to address all of these needs. It’s only a matter of time before we see it all come to fruition.