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Atlanta Falcons 2023 Season Preview

Football season is just days away from kicking off, which means the most wonderful time of year is about to commence for a sports fan. And man, is NFL football much more exciting when your team has a real chance of being competitive this year, that team? The Atlanta Falcons (yeah, Chicago sports all the way, except da Bears) are coming off a 7-10 season a year ago that finished last in the NFC South. However, there were many bright spots on last year's team, and with some new additions and a spark of youth, the Falcons could sneak away with a division title.


A New QB Takes Over

First, and probably the biggest headline for the Falcons season, is Desmond Ridder. Ridder will officially take over the QB position for the 2023 campaign, as he took over the starting role in week 14 last year after Marcus Mariota was benched and left the team. In Ridder's four starts, he acclaimed 708 yards, two touchdowns, and a 63% completion percentage. Ridder is also the only quarterback in NFL history to have more than 100 pass attempts without throwing an interception. The former Cinncinta Bearcat also appeared in just one preseason game and looked impressive, 7/9 with 80 passing yards and one interception (that tipped off of Scotty Miller's hands, so it doesn't count). Now, yes, the sample size is small, and the numbers don't blow anybody away. Still, with the addition of Bijan Robinson and the return of Tyler Alggier, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London, Ridder can thrive in this offense without having to throw more than 30 passes a game- due to the impressive rushing attack Atlanta has.


A Youthful Offense

That impressive rushing attack that Atlanta features became even more dangerous during this offseason with the 1st-round draft of Bijan Robinson from Texas. A season ago, the Falcons ranked first in rushing attempts, third in rushing yards, and tenth in rushing touchdowns. Atlanta's backfield was led by 2022, 5th-round draft pick Tyler Allgeier, who ran for 1035 yards and scored three times rushing, all while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The veteran Swiss army knife Cordarrelle Patterson was also a threat in the backfield, rushing for 695 yards and eight touchdowns in last year's campaign. So, what does Atlanta do? Draft the best running back in college football last year to run behind pro-bowl guard Chris Lindstrom and veteran Jake Matthews. That's all, not to mention two other key pieces in the Dirty Birds offense in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. London had a respectful rookie season, catching 72 passes for 866 yards and four touchdowns. Pitts is coming off of only playing in ten games last season as he tore his MCL in week 11, but this man is on the verge of having a breakout season. Pitts had 1026 receiving yards in his first year and was named to the pro-bowl that season. In a tight end-heavy offense, expect Pitts to play more in the slot or even out to the split receiver position. This offense has a lot of potential and flexibility between the WRs and RBs, and with Arthur Smith playcalling, this offense could be a massive threat to opposing defenses.


Defensive Rebrand

Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, Atlanta made some pretty nice additions in the offseason. Atlanta added two big names: the Veteran DL Calais Campbell and S Jessie Bates. Yes, Campbell is 37 years old and is likely nearing the end of his 16-year NFL career. Still, Campbell is coming off a season where he had 5.5 sacks in 14 games, a half-sack less than Atlanta's leader last year (Grady Jarret with 6). As you can see, ATL can use any help they can get in the pass rush department. Bates is an excellent addition to the Falcons' secondary, ranked 25th in the league in passing yards against. The Falcons haven't had a top-10 defense in the league since 2017, and before that was 2012. Atlanta needs the defensive line to get to the quarterback, so what do they do? Hire Ryan Nielsen as the defensive coordinator. Nielson served as New Orleans's defensive line coach/co-defensive coordinator. In Neilson's time with the Saints, the Saints had 281 sacks over a 5-year span, which is good for second in the league during that time frame.

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Atlanta will open their season at home versus the division rival Carolina Panthers, and that new defense will be tasked with taking on Bryce Young in his NFL debut. There is no question that there is talent on this team, between a lot of youth on offense and a mix of young and old on defense. If the Falcons can play to their strengths on offense (running the ball) and create pressure on the opposing quarterback, Atlanta could run away with an NFC South title and make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.


Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)



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