It has now been more than a few years since the Atlanta Falcons turned a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI into a six-point overtime loss to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. It’s worth mentioning that the club reached the playoffs the following year in 2017. A wild card victory over the Rams in Los Angeles was followed by a frustrating setback to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles at Philadelphia.
The franchise has now posted five consecutive losing seasons. It adds up to a combined 32-50 mark since 2018. The club has finished 7-10 the past two years, both of those showings under one-time Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator/turned Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith.
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A Few Key Alterations
Hence another offseason of change. The team’s new defensive coordinator is Ryan Nielsen. He shared that title with Kris Richard with the New Orleans Saints a year ago. Speaking of their NFC South rival from the Big Easy, the Falcons bolstered Nielsen’s unit this month with the additions of defensive tackle David Onyemata and edge-rusher Kaden Elliss.
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With the Saints this past season, the former had five sacks and the latter racked up 74 tackles and 7.5 quarterback traps. The signing of former Bengals’ free safety Jessie Bates is a major coup as well. Atlanta owns the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft and has a total of eight selections.
Another player that Smith is quite familiar with it is tight end Jonnu Smith. The team acquired the one-time Tennessee Titans’ standout in a trade with the New England Patriots which will cost Atlanta a seventh-round pick in April. While the six-year pro was a bit of a disappointment, his four-year stay in Nashville saw him haul in 114 passes for 1,302 and 16 scores – eight of those touchdowns in 2020.
Smith will be seeing passes from quarterback Desmond Ridder, who will now be backed up by seasoned pro Taylor Heinicke.
Can this organization snap out of its recent funk and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017? The NFC South was a woeful division this past year and finishing last in this division doesn’t speak highly of the team. But as we saw a year ago, you can resurrect your program in the NFL fairly quickly. Keep in mind that four teams that finish last in 2021 reached the playoffs this past season.
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