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Play Designs the Atlanta Falcons Offense Should Bring Back

Which play designs should the Atlanta Falcons offense utilize in order to maximize the potential of the dynamic players they have?
Atlanta Falcons Offense

Much of the discussion this off-season has been about the differences between former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and the current offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. After a disappointing first season, Sarkisian looks to improve in his second year. With a year of experience under this belt and a few new weapons, Sarkisian has most of the tools he needs but his play-calling leaves much to be desired. Not only does he sometimes not have good situation play-calls, some of them have poor designs. Shanahan was a mastermind for the Falcons so here are some of the play designs I’d like to see Sarkisian bring back.

Which Play Designs Should the Atlanta Falcons Offense Bring Back?

Toss With Different Blocking Scheme

This is one of my favorite variations of traditional play calls from Shanahan. Firstly he sets up with only one tight end to the opposite side which doesn’t necessarily scream run. He also has three wide receivers on the outside which helps to create that defensive confusion. Shanahan then has the play side tackle pull while the weak side line angles to block the linebackers. On top of that, he has his slot receiver come inside and block down on the blitzing linebacker as well as Julio Jones blocking the middle linebacker as he comes across the field.

Sarkisian has shown how much he loves this play (ran it more than he should’ve in the Divisional Round loss) but he goes about it the wrong way. Firstly, he doesn’t have anyone pulling. A toss is naturally meant to spread the field and use the player’s speed to get to the outside and beat the defender. But when you have no pulling lineman you essentially constrict your running back to the box.

This is another variation in which he puts the fullback in the backfield as well but the basic blocking scheme is still the same and works well.

Fake Handoff Flat Route

It’s no secret Julio and Sarkisian had problems in the red zone last year. This has led many people to question why the problems exist. Part of it relies on Sarkisian not calling his best routes (Post, Corner, and Fade) but also part of it is Matt Ryan not giving/forcing Julio the ball in the red zone (Julio’s target share goes down from 32 percent outside the red zone to 16 percent in the red zone). This play solves both of those issues.

This play starts with a fake handoff to the running back going to the opposite side. Usually Jones (could be Mohamed Sanu or Calvin Ridley this year) then goes behind the defensive line to the opposite side of the running back and turns up the field slightly to run a flat route. Ryan also rolls out to the route side. Not only does this create space for Julio by faking the handoff but it also gets Ryan in space where he excels.

Sarkisian used this play in the game vs. the Rams and although it’s not as pretty it worked well. This play is one of my favorites as it creates space for Julio to operate and gets a game changer involved when he’s most needed.

Quick Seam Route (With Screen)

I only have one play of this but it worked extremely well for the position on the field the Falcons were in. As I’ve said already in this article, the Falcons have trouble getting Julio the ball, especially in the red zone. Other plays above will help and so will this one. If Sark is anywhere inside of the five, he needs to run a quick pass like this. Not only is it better than a jet sweep but it’s a fast route with a screen that creates a good bit of open space for just enough time for Julio to grab the ball.

Honorable Mention

The Falcons’ offensive problems weren’t concentrated on one issue but I’m confident in saying passing to running backs was a big part of it. In 2016, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 85 receptions, 883 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. In 2017, they combined for 63 receptions, 616 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. That is a huge drop that is directly involved with play calling. Sarkisian rarely had them go out for routes and when he did, they were poor routes/play designs. This play is one of my favorites to get the running backs involved.

The Falcons come out in trips and Shanahan has all 3 act as decoys taking their corners away from the play. He also directs one of the players to bump the linebacker meant to cover the running back which is perfectly legal. This play seems like Ryan is weighing his options among the receivers but in reality, it’s a designed pass to Coleman. While this can work with Freeman, Coleman seems the fittest to run this play. This is another play that creates space legally and allows a space player like Coleman to operate.

Although I doubt Sarkisian brings back any of these specific play designs, it will be nice to see how he has changed the offense over the off-season.

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