Our staff contributors all agree we’re seeing progress, but how much is enough?
This week’s takeaways all concern progress, how much the Falcons are making after that Jets win, and what that might actually mean. We’re all on different sides of that question, but I’d welcome your thoughts regarding whether the Falcons are making progress, whether it’s real or a bit illusory if they are, and what that might mean for the rest of the season.
God help me, I’m encouraged
The Falcons finally burnt me out last year. I was tired of losing, I was tired of the team vowing and failing to fix their many issues, and I was dreading the offseason cap situation and looming major decisions even a new regime was intriguing. I came into this season expecting some hope and some progress for the future and a competitive team, and so when they were shellacked the first two weeks, my frustration mounted and mounted.
This season isn’t going to be a straight road to success—there are too many good teams on the schedule and too many issues for this team to overcome every week out—but that hope that they can be competitive is returning and the progress seems more tangible. The rookies are contributing, players from Thomas Dimitroff’s underrated 2020 draft class like Jaylinn Hawkins, A.J. Terrell and Matt Hennessy are panning out, and Arthur Smith went from hunkering protectively over a lead against Washington to aggressively expanding it against the Jets. The Falcons were rudderless and scrambling just to stay relevant for the past three years, so a team that finds ways to improve with some sort of steadiness feels like a minor miracle.
I know better—these are the Falcons!—but perhaps they’ll be a little less that deeply doomed franchise going forward, and perhaps even as soon as this season. That’d be something to look forward to. —Dave Choate
The Falcons had to patch together this roster due to the severe financial constraints left behind from former GM Thomas Dimitroff. As such, many positions are relying on young players where the team might have normally tried to sign a better veteran option. That was always going to mean some bumps in the road, but we may be seeing the payoff of that.
I’ll let everyone talk about how brilliant Kyle Pitts and Matt Ryan were – that’s evident. I want to focus on the offensive line and how much better they’ve looked from week to week. Make no mistake: the Jets defensive front is a very good one. They had 13 sacks coming into the game and finished with none against Atlanta. The Falcons also managed to run effectively and Ryan was able to pass all day long. On top of that, we had guys like Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant contributing meaningful snaps and playing well overall.
This team is nowhere near a playoff contender right now, but the trajectory is pointing up. Right now, that’s something to be happy with. – David Walker
Improvement… but is it enough?
Week 1 was a dark time with this fan base. Ryan looked washed. Pitts was an afterthought. Jalen Mayfield had the worst game of any Falcons offensive linemen in… decades? The defense had amazingly gotten even worse. The Falcons were looking at a very grim future. A month later and things have changed. Ryan is looking both sharp and comfortable. Pitts just broke out as a true elite weapon. The offensive line has been improving each and every week, allowing zero sacks on Sunday. The defense is… well, still pretty awful, but there has been good progress.
The Falcons are much better. But have they improved enough? The question really circles around the future of Ryan and other veterans on this team. Is Terry Fontenot going to dump expensive contracts next offseason with eyes on competing in 2023? Or can he build around Ryan, a la Drew Brees in New Orleans the last five years? It is so tough to tell, and the Falcons need to pull out some wins against better teams. But if we continue to see progress from this team, Atlanta may turn into a dark horse for a wildcard berth. – Matt Chambers