2020 was a rough year for the Atlanta Falcons as they finished with a disappointing 4-12 record. The news got even worse for Falcons fans during the offseason when they learned that star wideout Julio Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans (Baseline Times). However, new head coach Arthur Smith brings some fresh intensity and a winning attitude to Atlanta.
What will 2021 have in store for the “Dirty Birds”? Is this team in full rebuild mode, or will they surprise some folks by sneaking into a Wild Card spot? Here’s a closer look at this year’s Falcons.
Even with a poor offensive line, QB Matt Ryan still had a decent season in 2020. The 36-year old threw for 4,581 yards and 26 touchdowns and only 11 picks last year. “Matty Ice” still has plenty of arm strength to run this offense and he’s poised for a better season in 2021.
The Atlanta running game will have some fresh new faces with Mike Davis coming over from Carolina and Cordarrelle Patterson from Chicago. Davis put up some good numbers for the Panthers last year by rushing for 642 yards and six touchdowns. The Falcons need more production out of this unit to give their offense a more balanced attack in 2021.
Future Hall of Famer Julio Jones may be gone, but the cupboard isn’t bare at receiver for Atlanta. Calvin Ridley has established himself as one of the top young wideouts in the league. The former Alabama star put up a career-high 1,374 receiving yards last year to go along with nine scores. First-round draft pick Kyle Pitts should have a dynamic first season and could contend for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Defense is the major question mark this year for Atlanta as they ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (293.6) in 2020. The pass rush also needs to improve in order to help out the secondary. The Falcons’ rushing defense is a strong point as they ranked sixth in the league (104.8).
Cornerback A.J. Terrell had a great rookie campaign by racking up 74 tackles, three force fumbles, and an interception last year. The Atlanta front office brought in plenty of personnel to try and help Terrell out in the secondary. It will be interesting to see how newcomers Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, and Fabian Moreau do in 2021.
2021 Special Teams
Younghoe Koo returns as the Falcons starting kicker this year. Koo did a phenomenal job last season by making 37 of 39 field goal attempts.
The starting punter position will be up for grabs this preseason. Dom Maggio, a rookie from Wake Forest, will get a good look as well as Cameron Nizialek.
The return duties will be split between Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs and Chris Rowland on punts. Patterson is a special teams machine, as he gained over 1,000 yards last season on kickoff returns for the Bears.