The Atlanta Falcons Pessimist’s Guide

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 (we can call it that, last year was an evaluation year), and there is no telling what is in store for this team. So, both sides deserve to be addressed. Now, we give the pessimist’s viewpoint on this year’s Atlanta Falcons.

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Pessimist’s Viewpoint for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons

Strength of Schedule

With a combined 2021 record of 151-137-1, the Falcons have the ninth-toughest strength of schedule heading into 2022. In what is supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Falcons have up to 11 games against playoff teams (depending on how you feel about the Cleveland Browns). 

Of the first seven games of the regular season, the games necessary to garner a rhythm, six are against potential playoff teams (again, all depending on how you categorize the Browns). This insane stretch includes both super bowl teams (Los Angeles Rams, Cincinnati Bengals) from last season and two of the top teams from the NFC (San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

Then, let’s hypothesize that the Falcons overachieve to a level not yet imagined and achieve potential wild-card status. Again, not very likely but let’s have some fun. In December, the time to make that type of run, they play the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 41-25 in December since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, before heading into the much-awaited bye week. They then play four games against playoff-caliber teams that will be fighting for playoff position, making it that much more improbable to pull off an upset.

Lack of Trench Warfare

One major point for pessimism of these Atlanta Falcons is the play of both trenches. The woes on the offensive line are well-documented, especially on the interior. Where the Falcons have one of the best right-guards in Chris Lindstrom, they had one of the worst opposite of him in Jalen Mayfield. Even with Mayfield getting beat out in camp by Elijah Wilkinson, the offensive line is far from being solidified. The center position is a battle of who can anchor us the best between Matt Hennessy, who underwhelmed most of last season, and Drew Dalman, who isn’t consistent enough to unseat him. Kaleb McGary has supposedly improved, but he has to show it more consistently. That’s been the problem with this line, being able to win consistently. Only Jake Matthews and Lindstrom can be trusted to win and win often. Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder can extend plays outside the pocket, and thank God they can. They will need to escape more often than not.

On the other side, the defensive line has seen a slight improvement, but that’s not saying much. The pass rush last year was laughingly bad as they amassed 18 sacks total, and their top guy, Dante Fowler, had 4.5 sacks in 2021. Outside of Grady Jarrett, the defensive line is very much unproven on the NFL level. Lorenzo Carter and Arnold Ebeketie on the outside or Ta’Quon Graham and Marlon Davidson on the inside. The Falcons have so many more questions than answers on this roster, and they start in the trenches.

Questions Throughout the Roster

But those aren’t the most glaring questions that plague this roster. Let’s start with the point guard on the field: the quarterback position.

We don’t even know who the quarterback will be when the season begins. Mariota has injury concerns that may knock him out sooner than planned and thrust rookie Ridder in before he may be ready. Will Ridder be ready? Is he the future quarterback? Or should we be searching for the answer in next year’s draft?

Next are the questions surrounding the defense and the young guys that must step up. Are Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins ready for the safety position? What does a successful season look like for Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone, for that matter? What the heck does Troy Andersen look like as a middle linebacker? Is Isaiah Oliver the answer to the nickel corner position? And these are all coming from what seems to be the best unit on this team. 

There are plenty of questions on the offensive side of the ball. Do the running backs allow Arthur Smith to use Cordarrelle Patterson’s versatility? Will this basketball-team mentality in the receiving room work? Will Drake London be able to stay on the field to make an impact? Only seeing him for one target and one catch before injury concerns is not a great omen.

This team is not ready to compete with anybody yet. One can try to be optimistic about this season’s talent. But there are far too many questions and unproven players for this season to be anything more than a testament to the sheer will of Falcons fans everywhere.