An Optimists Guide for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons Optimists

There are two sides to every NFL fanbase when their team is rebuilding its roster. On one side, some know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That hope allows them to celebrate the small victories as their team builds towards the future. On the other, some fans can’t escape the darkness that the tunnel emits. It takes away from the view of the vision as they are tired of waiting to get to the light. Finding yourself on either side of the fence is easy when you are a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. The first full year of the rebuild (one can call it that, last year was an evaluation year), and there is no telling what is in store for this team. So, to be fair, both sides deserve to be addressed. We will start with the optimists’ viewpoint on this year’s Atlanta Falcons.

An Optimists Guide for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons

More Playmakers on Offense

Last season, on “Hard Knocks In Season,” Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Frank Reich said something profound while game-planning. He stated how when his wife and kids asked “who to root for” for that week that he couldn’t tell them. He told them to just “root for the Colts.” 

Last season, Head Coach Arthur Smith had no problem telling people who to root for from week to week. It was either going to be a Cordarrelle Patterson-led game or a Kyle Pitts-led game. With Calvin Ridley’s absence early on in the season, the offense was a two-horse race throughout the season. Not much for an Atlanta Falcons optimist to be excited about. Their 2192 yards accounted for 40% of the total offense’s yards from scrimmage.

This off-season, the Atlanta Falcons have revamped their offenisve personnel. The pass-catchers have a new featured wide receiver in Drake London, who gave us a teaser of what he brings to the position against the Detroit Lions. The backfield gains a potential bell-cow back in fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier and a do-it-all guy in former Super Bowl LIV standout Damien Williams. 

The offensive line remains virtually intact from their subpar performance last season, but it does add another year of continuity. One of the main changes has been the usurping of the left guard position from Jalen Mayfield to the sixth-year veteran Elijah Wilkinson. 

Finally, there is the quarterback position. Atlanta has found two quarterbacks, technically three with offensive weapon Feleipe Franks, that add an element to the offense that was not present with Matt Ryan: The ability to run the football. Seeing Desmond Ridder and Marcus Mariota line up in the pistol and scramble outside of the pocket has to be an exciting sight for Falcons fans. Arthur Smith’s playbook opens up exponentially with the extra weaponry of a mobile quarterback.

Building an Identity

Arthur Smith speaks on competitiveness and how he found guys with a “chip on their shoulder” coming into camp. The NFL world saw the teary-eyed draft experience for the third-round draft pick, Desmond Ridder, that is the kind of heart and emotion that this team needs going into the future. Is he the future? Maybe, but his late-game heroics have to leave even the most pessimistic fan optimistic about the future.

Outside of sappy beginnings, plenty of veterans are coming into this season on one-year “prove it” deals, further stoking the competitive fires this pre-season. These players all have a chance to make a name for themselves for the Atlanta Falcons as their cap situation frees up next season or another team that may want to scoop them up next off-season. From Lorenzo Carter and Damiere Byrd to Anthony Rush and Anthony Firkser.

While Smith preaches on competitive nature, in the front office, Terry Fontenot brought a mixture of size and physicality throughout the roster. The receiver room brought in 6’5” Auden Tate and 6’3” Bryan Edwards to complement 6’4” Drake London on the outside. Middle linebacker Rashaan Evans comes in, seemingly, as a one-year mentor for second-round pick Troy Andersen so that he may be the inside linebacker of the future for Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees‘ unit. Evans showed off his physicality as he staved off blocks against the Lions in week one of the pre-season. 

 

Speaking of Pees, his rant on the Atlanta defense sent a message to the fans that this will no longer be a forgotten unit. With additions to the secondary in Casey Hayward, Jr., returning nickel corner Isaiah Oliver, and starting the young, talented safety duo of Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins, the Falcons have made their secondary a formidable unit in the NFL.

A Certain Tight End Named Kyle Pitts

No optimists’ guide for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons is complete without talking about the big guy on the line of scrimmage. Last season, rookie tight end Kyle Pitts was the lone bright spot in a disappointing offense. Falcons fans have been holding on to the fact that when all else fails, you can look for number eight attacking the seams and expect something good to happen. 

All of the talks around training camp have been that Kyle Pitts has gotten even more impressive. He has gotten faster, is getting easier separation, and routes are starting to look smoother. In one-on-ones, if someone can guard Kyle Pitts, it is noteworthy.

Pitts has set himself up to break out as a top-five tight end in the league this season. After a rookie season where he has already cemented himself as a top-100 player, Pitts will attract a ton of attention from defenses. Thus, opening up one-on-ones for all of the big-bodied and shifty receivers that litter this receiver room. This offense will go as far as Kyle Pitts will take them. I do not think you could find more capable hands to put them in.

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