Today dropped news that most Falcons fans were expecting, Rico tore his Achilles. This hurts on many levels to me, personally. One, I’ve been an avid Rico supporter among all the fans who have called to replace him in the past. Two, he’s the most flexible DB the Falcons have, being serviceable in all assets with his ability to play smart using technique and leverage. Three, Rico is the brains in big situations. The Falcons defense has played better as Rico has taken a bigger role. Rico goes down, and confusion begins to set in on the defense.
This article, however, isn’t about looking at every where the Falcons have lost this season, but let’s take a look at some positives the Falcons can take into next week. The future starts today. So, what possibly do the Falcons have to look forward to?
This one is probably the obvious first choice, but how could you not be excited about Ridley?? 7 catches for 146 yards and 3 TDs is a way to tell the league you’re here. Ridley torched the Saints defense. This is extremely encouraging as it’s going to open opportunities the more Ridley establishes himself in the offense. The safety on Ridley’s 75yd TD was so concerned with the bunch formation and Julio he was calling to Vonn Bell after the snap. Ridley took full advantage of the man coverage. Savor the depth of the roster allowing the Falcons to use a high pick to get Ridley as he is beginning to show why the Falcons were so high on him
One thing I didn’t notice during the game, but picked up on later watching the film, Campbell started to take on a voice and make an impact. He shut down a 2nd down screen and called a couple keys on Kamara runs to hold them for short gains in OT. A better Campbell by necessity is something I am interested in seeing. He’s a gifted athlete who has improved every year. This is his moment to take a bigger role.
Red Zone Offense
After week 1, many fans had big concerns about whether the Falcons could produce in the red zone. 2 weeks later, and the Falcons offense has made their response clear. The Falcons have been perfect the last two weeks going 8 for 8 in the red zone with 8 TDs. The offense looks to be humming and over the drops that plagued them at the worst times last season. The schedule favors the Falcons. The next real test doesn’t look to be coming until after the bye week and a road trip to Washington. The fire Sark chants have quieted for now, and the road is set for Sark to keep them that way. The Ridley TD from the 18 was a combination of great call and route running. The play before Ridley beat Williams inside, and on the next play Ridley hits him with the double move creating plenty of room for Ryan to drop it in
While injuries may have short term pain, they have the ability to build long term strength. Going into the season, guys like Kazee and Oluokun weren’t looking to get many meaningful snaps. These guys showed a lot of promise in pre-season work, but there is no substitution for real game experience. LB is thin and will need Jones when he returns, but this is a chance for a guy like Oluokun to get meaningful snaps and prove he can be a valuable piece in a rotation. Kazee looks to receive a lot of time with the loss of Neal. This is his chance to earn his spot in the NFL. Quinn isn’t new to trial by fire with young players, both Jones and Neal were thrust into the lineup from day one. Improvement will come incrementally and slow. At times, you won’t be able to tell they’re improving. The experience will pay off in the long run with two young rookies.
Ultimately, this is a roster loaded with talent still even if the defense is lighter. The defense has 5 defensive starters from its super bowl team still active (Jones will return being the 6th) and has enough veterans voices to make up for the short comings during the learning growth. The DL will be even more key in creating disruption to help the back of the defense. Beasley has been great against the run, but he’ll need bring more pass pressure. Jarrett has been quiet since the Super Bowl and will have to show off what he did then. On the offensive side, this has the makings of the look from the SB team. Many people forget the Falcons struggled on offense week 1 that season as well, but it started to roll as the season progressed. The offensive side is deep and starting to realize it’s potential. If they can get hot and help take the burden off the defense, it will go a long way to keeping the Falcons winning. Jones will return later in the season which should allow the Falcons to again match up on defense with some of the better offenses and make plays. The offense has the ability to score with anyone.
The experience early for young players could be a blessing in disguise as the depth will be needed all season. With an offense capable of scoring on any defense, they’ll be leaned on more heavily to produce as they have recently. If the offense can maintain the pace of the game and put the defense in good situations, the team is still plenty capable of making the playoffs. Not every team has Drew Brees.