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Buc Rivals: Atlanta Falcons After the Draft

A look at how the Falcons are shaping up following the 2019 NFL Draft

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

All four NFC South Division teams have appeared in at least one Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints having hoisted the Lombardi Trophy once each.

While the Bucs and Saints have champions living in their past, the Atlanta Falcons have fallen victim as one of the most notable losers of a Super Bowl in history.

I imagine at least one Falcons fans born on March 28th may have at least googled what it would take to officially change their date of birth.

Still, the franchise and the fans are looking for ways to get back to the big game and potentially replace that most recent memory with a new one. One which gives the division it’s third Super Bowl winning franchise.

Like we did with the Carolina Panthers before them, let’s dive into the Falcons’ off-season and look at how the team stacks up today.


NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Devonta Freeman missed two games in 2017. He followed up by playing in two games in 2018. Ito Smith helped pick up the slack rushing for 315-yards on 90 carries (3.5 yards per carry) and contributed with another 152-yards stemming from 27-receptions.

As the Falcons’ leading rusher in 2018, Coleman notched 800-yards on the ground and 276-yards as a receiver.

Entering 2019, only one running back on the roster (Smith) had more than 20 carries. There are some notable names in their running back stable, like Brian Hill and Jeremy Langford.

Still, if a lot is going to ride on Freeman and Smith who combined for just over 100-carries and fewer than 500-yards rushing in 2018 while Coleman helps carry the rock for the San Francisco 49ers.

Other Key Losses: DE/OLB, Bruce Irvin; CB, Robert Alford; G, Ben Garland; K, Matt Bryant


NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons are going to have a new look offensive line in 2019 and James Carpenter is one of the additions expected to be a big part of it.

Originally drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks back in 2011, Carpenter spent the last four seasons with the Jets and now moves to Atlanta on a brand new four-year deal.

His signing didn’t attract national news headlines or breaking news announcements, but the success and failure of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense is going to hinge - in part - to this signing.


NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There were those who thought Kaleb McGary might move inside to guard in the NFL. After drafting him along with Christopher Lindstrom - who actually is a guard - this may not be an option unless the team plans on leaving the right tackle position vacant.

The move surprised a lot of people, including me, but I can’t deny how intriguing McGary has been this draft season.

He’s got a lot of talent, and is relatively inexperienced as an offensive tackle meaning he’ll likely get better as he gets even more experience at the position.


NCAA Football: Penn State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Sheffield isn’t the most polished cornerback and he most likely won't come in shutting down every team’s top wide receiver.

What he is though, is supremely talented as an athlete and happens to be in possession of every tool necessary to be a top pass defender in the NFL.

If the Falcons can teach him the techniques and skills necessary to use his athletic prowess for good, then he’ll be a steal in the fourth-round of this year’s draft.


NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The defense in Atlanta is a big question mark, but getting healthier will help. To me though, right now, the bigger question is whether or not an offensive line with three new members - including two who are transitioning to the NFL completely - will be able to put it together to give Matt Ryan the time he needs to execute Dirk Koetter’s offense.

If Koetter’s scheme looks anything like it has in the past - it will - then Ryan is going to need three clean seconds on every snap. Every. Snap.

This means the five guys in front of him, led by veteran Alex Mack are going to have to become a solidified unit in a hurry.

With only sixteen games, this isn’t Lebron’s Lakers and Atlanta doesn’t have a month or two to figure it out.

A lot of folks around the Falcons are excited for Koetter’s return because of the success Ryan had previously under his coordination. I’ve argued in his three years as Tampa Bay’s head coach he was a much better coordinator, and I stand by it.

Still, this newly formed offensive line is going to need to gel in a hurry to make sure they don’t get Ryan killed, let alone give him the time he’s going to need to score enough points for the Falcons defense to stay in the game.

Check out even more talk about the current state of the Atlanta Falcons as Locked On Falcons host Aaron Freeman joins the Locked On Bucs Podcast for a special post-draft crossover episode!