Atlanta Falcons secondary set for big season

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It is no secret that the Atlanta Falcons have a long road ahead of them after a complete overhaul this offseason. The team made a number of big moves, including trading away former franchise quarterback Matt Ryan and a likely scenario where they deal or cut former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones before the season begins. Despite this, the Falcons may have quietly created a secondary that could rank near the top of the NFL this season.

A Dynamic Duo

A major gripe from Falcons fans over the past five years has been the Falcons secondary. And reasonably so. They have consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed. So it made since that that is the area that would be rebuilt first. How did they send this message? By signing veteran cornerback Casey Hayward. This puts the Falcons in a unique spot for the position that not many teams can have: two lockdown corners on both sides of the field. Corner AJ Terrell take up the other side of the field, coming off a remarkable 2021 campaign. Terrell finished the 2021 season with the second-highest PFF score of all eligible cornerbacks. This duo is bound to be one of the best in the league heading into the 2022 season.

Falcons Sophomore is given his chance

Atlanta Falcons safety Richie Grant #27 prepares to take the field prior to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, September 12, 2021. (Photo by Kyle Hess/Atlanta Falcons)

After the 2021 draft, many Falcons fans ran in droves to find footage of Richie Grant, the safety from UCF. These highlights quickly got them excited about Grant’s potential. Grant didn’t start a game for the Falcons last season, but second-year head coach Arthur Smith has high expectations for Grants’ sophomore season. His rookie season seen him play over 600 snaps for the Falcons, but mainly played a backup role. Veteran starters Erik Harris and Duron Harmon played the role of his mentors last season. Harris returns to the team, but Harmon tested free agency, leaving the door open for Grant. Grant could wind up being a starter for the Falcons for the next four seasons, and this season will be used for him playing the hungriest that he can.

Falcons Trending Upwards

Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins #32 celebrates after a play during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, September 19, 2021. (Photo by Jeremy Reper/Atlanta Falcons)

The Falcons finished the 2020 season dead last in passing yards allowed per game. However, they have made it a point to rebuild the position group and the rankings keep moving up for them. The 2021 season seen the Falcons move all the way up to 18th in that category. This trend will do nothing but go up given the moves that the Falcons have done this offseason.

Prediction

I am predicting that barring any injuries, the Falcons will move into the top-12 in passing yards allowed this offseason, due to the chemistry that the core has developed over the past two offseasons, including great strides by safeties Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins, who should get significant playing time this season as well. Fact of the matter is, this could be the best Falcons secondary since their Super Bowl run in 2016.

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