The Atlanta Falcons are seen as heavy underdogs in the NFC South heading into the 2023-2024 season. The pieces could be there to make a playoff run in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions. They decided to gamble now while their quarterback is still on their rookie deal, spending a lot of money over the offseason to improve the defense.
Last year’s Falcons squad surprised many by finishing 7-10 with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder and first-year head coach Arthur Smith. However, they started the first 13 games of the season with veteran signal-caller, Marcus Mariota. He threw for over 200 yards in only three of those games. Ridder stepped in after a bye week in week 15 but failed to throw a touchdown in his first three starts. Fortunately, he ended the season strong against the Buccaneers, completing 19/30 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. A win over Tom Brady in his final regular season game isn’t too bad either.
Despite having some talented young receivers, Atlanta leaned heavily on the run and finished with the third-best rushing attack in the league. Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier ran for over 1,000 yards while 31-year-old Cordarelle Patterson chipped in another 695 yards. No receiver even eclipsed the 900-yard mark for the season, which was a massive disappointment for a team that spent top-ten picks on Kyle Pitts and Drake London.
Defensively they finished in the middle of the pack, but as mentioned earlier it became a major point of emphasis over the offseason. With so much roster turnover, will the Atlanta Falcons have enough talent and chemistry to compete in 2023-2024? Let’s look at some of their key additions.
DL Calais Campbell
Calais Campbell is just a freak. At 36 years old, he remained very productive for the Ravens logging 5.5 sacks and 14 hits to the quarterback. He signed a two-year deal with Atlanta and will be the veteran leader of this defense.
Edge Bud Dupree
Dupree signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Atlanta after spending a few seasons with the Titans. He took a step back in Tennessee, but it’s a great price for a productive pass rusher who is still 30 years old.
LB Kaden Elliss
Kaden Elliss signed a three-year, $21 million deal with Atlanta after a breakout season with the Saints. Elliss recorded seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and 78 combined tackles in only 11 starts last season. Falcons fans should be excited to get another team-friendly contract for a young linebacker with a lot of potential.
FS Jessie Bates
Jessie Bates is Atlanta’s highest-profile addition. They acquired him for four years, $64 million after a productive start to his career with the Bengals. Last season, he recorded four interceptions and 71 combined tackles. At just 26 years old, the best years could still be ahead for Bates.
CB Jeff Okudah
The Lions traded the former third-overall pick to Atlanta for only a 2024 fifth-round pick. Regardless of how good Okudah becomes, trades like these are very safe gambles in the long run. The 24-year-old corner had an injury-plagued start to his career but last season he started 15 games, logging a pick-six and 73 total tackles. The potential is still there for him to be a starting-caliber corner.
- RB Bijan Robinson (Round 1, Pick 8, Texas)
- OT Matthew Bergeron (Round 2, Pick 38, Syracuse)
- EDGE Zach Harrison (Round 3, Pick 75, Ohio State)
- CB Clark Phillips III (Round 4, Pick 113, Utah)
- S DeMarcco Hellams (Round 7, Pick 224, Alabama)
- G Jovaughn Gwyn (Round 7, Pick 225, South Carolina)
LB Rashaan Evans
Rashaan Evans was only a one-year rental for Atlanta, but he never missed a game and led the team in total tackles. He’ll likely be replaced by second-year linebacker Troy Andersen, who started in the final four games of the season.
CB Isaiah Oliver
Oliver signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency after spending his first five years in Atlanta. The 26-year-old corner only started five of 13 games last season but recorded a sack, one pick, and defended seven passes.
- Head Coach: Arthur Smith
- Assistant Head Coach/Defense: Jerry Gray
- Senior Assistant: Steve Hoffman
- Offensive Coordinator: Dave Ragone
- Offensive Line: Dwayne Ledford
- Offensive Line Assistant: Shawn Flaherty
- Offensive Line Assistant: Mateo Kambui
- Tight Ends: Justin Peelle
- Running Backs: Michael Pitre
- Wide Receivers: T.J. Yates
- Assistant Wide Receivers: Nick Perry
- Offensive Assistant: Patrick Kramer
- Offensive Assistant: Steven King
- Defensive Coordinator: Ryan Nielsen
- Senior Defensive Assistant: Dave Huxtable
- Defensive Assistant: Matt Pees
- Special Projects Defense: Mario Jeberaeel
- Linebackers: Frank Bush
- Defensive Front: Lanier Goethie
- Secondary: Steve Jackson
Projected Depth Chart
- QB: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
- WR: Drake London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Penny Hart, KhaDarel Hodge, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
- RB: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
- FB: Clint Ratkovich
- LT: Jake Matthews, Ethan Greenidge
- LG: Matthew Bergeron, Matt Hennessy
- C: Drew Dalman, Jovaughn Gwyn
- RG: Chris Lindstrom, Jalen Mayfield
- RT: Kaleb McGary
- EDGE: Bud Dupree, Zach Harrison
- NT: David Onyemata, Eddie Goldman
- DT: Grady Jarrett, Calais Campbell, Ta’Quon Graham
- EDGE: Lorenzo Carter, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone
- MLB: Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker, Tae Davis
- WLB: Kaden Elliss, Nate Landman
- RCB: Jeff Okudah, Tre Flowers
- LCB: A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall
- NCB: Clark Phillips III, Mike Hughes
- SS: Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins
- FS: Jessie Bates III, DeMarcco Hellams
- P: Bradley Pinion
- K: Younghoe Koo
- LS: Liam McCullough
The Atlanta Falcons did a great job building their defense over the offseason and it will be interesting to see how much they improve or regress in 2023-2024. Offensively, they added another elite weapon in Bijan Robinson and will have Desmond Ridder going into his second season. I honestly have a hard time finding where they got worse on paper.
The team admittedly looks vastly improved, however, I don’t believe their record will be vastly improved. In fact, I’m predicting the Atlanta Falcons to once again go 7-10, with their ceiling at 9-8 during the 2023-2024. I just don’t have enough faith in Desmond Ridder’s ability yet to be confident in Atlanta’s playoff chances.
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