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NFL team preview: The Atlanta Falcons are searching for a new identity under Arthur Smith

The Falcons are starting fresh with Arthur Smith stepping in as head coach. In his first year as an NFL head coach, Smith has to get his defense back on track, along with getting the most out of Matt Ryan after passing on a QB in the draft.


The Atlanta Falcons are looking for a fresh start. After parting ways with Dan Quinn, the Falcons are turning to Arthur Smith to bring winning back to Atlanta. Can Smith turn out some wins in an offense that has talent? Can he bring back some juice in Matt Ryan after helping turning Ryan Tannehill's career around? It's a new era in Atlanta, and they are certainly looking for a new identity under Arthur Smith.


This defense is definitely not the strength of this team. It's a very "meh" defensive roster. Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones are probably looking around the defensive meeting room and wonder where the hell all the talent went. It was only a few years ago Jarrett and Jones were on one of the best defenses in the league. Going to the Super Bowl. We all know how that story ends.

Sorry, this was mean.

I like AJ Terrell, as he showed flashes as a rookie. He wasn't perfect, but for a rookie cornerback, I thought he held his own. The rest of the secondary has some major question marks. The other cornerback position is up for grabs. They also have a veteran safety in Duron Harmon that should be serviceable in the defensive backfield.

After receiving a big deal last offseason, can Dante Fowler Jr. ever replicate what he did in LA? Fowler disappointed in 2020 with only three sacks after racking up 11.5 in 2019. Maybe it's harder to get sacks when you're not playing next to the greatest defensive tackle of all time. Leonard Floyd made the right career decision to continue to play alongside Aaron Donald and get his clean-up sacks.

I don't expect this defense to be great. There should be a lot of high-scoring games in Atlanta this season.


This offense still has the pieces to be explosive. The big news of the offseason is obviously trading away Julio Jones. Not only was he their best player on the team, he might be the most accomplished player to ever play for the Falcons. It just seemed like the right time to move on. Julio battled injuries last season and is not getting any younger. This Falcons team obviously doesn't look like a Super Bowl contender any time soon.

I think Calvin Ridley has the chance to be one of the best receivers in the league this year. He certainly has the chance to be a top-five fantasy receiver this season. With Julio gone, Ridley has taken over as the unquestioned number one receiver on this team. He thrived in the role last year when Julio went down.

Say what you want about the Kyle Pitts pick, but he's an absolute freak of nature. I know rookie tight ends usually don't produce right away. He's different. I don't even view him as a "tight end".

I just see him as a playmaker who can line up anywhere on the field. The Falcons probably should've drafted a QB, but I understand them falling in love with Pitts and seeing what Matty Ice has left in that arm.

Speaking of Matt Ryan, how many more years does he have left in a Falcons uniform? I still think he's a serviceable QB. He has some juice left in that arm and if Arthur Smith can build a strong running game with Mike Davis, I think this offense can be good. If Ryan doesn't produce this year, it's going to be interesting to see how the Falcons treat him. They have an out on his contract after this year that won't absolutely cripple their salary cap if they decide to part ways.


I like the potential of what Russell Gage can do lining up on the other side of Calvin Ridley. Gage got a lot of playing time last season after Julio went down with injuries. With a chance to start all 16 games this season, I think Gage has the potential to be a late-round steal.


Vegas currently has the Falcons at 7.5 wins. I'm going to hammer the under. I don't think this team is really good. I'm especially worried about the defensive side of the ball. The offense is going to put up points, but what's the point if your defense can't stop anyone. Just ask the Cowboys pre-Dak injury.

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