By Sawyer Hicks, Draft iD Senior Analyst
If you are reading this you are likely a Falcons fan. If not, maybe you just love football. But if you do not have much experience with this team or it’s history, as a disclaimer, know that we have had highs and lows, just like any team…but our lows have been so extremely low that it makes you question why to support a team that causes such excruciating suffering. Well…that is what football does to us. It toys with our emotions at all times. However, not all hope is lost for next year, and this is arguably the most important offseason in decades for this team. Here are the steps that they need to fix all of their continuous problems:
The absolute top priority is to hire a new head coach and general manager with a history of success and potential upside. This hire should not be a safe, low floor hiring, but should be a swing for the fences. The top two potential candidates for Head Coach are Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy and Carolina’s young, “wiz kid” Joe Brady. Both have shown that they are offensive geniuses and by hiring an offensive coach it will allow the team to have some consistency that has been missing since Kyle Shanahan’s departure years ago. The NFL is an offensive league with more and more games leading to shootouts, so it is vital that the next head coach lead the offense while bringing in a defensive coordinator with previous head coaching experience (Wade Phillips???).
Another overlooked factor that comes into play is the relationship between the General Manager and the Head Coach, which is why it is so important that they are on the same page in regard to most decisions. You see it time and time again, where the Head Coach and General Manager do not get along and fight over personnel decisions and philosophies, which rarely works out for the team.
The next priority should be to find a pass rush. The Falcons have been embarrassingly
bad since Jonathon Abraham left town nearly a decade ago, and that decision to not resign him has haunted the team since. The old regime has shown a complete incompetence in drafting, developing, or even signing free agents to make a difference in the pass rush. It is imperative that NFL teams have a pass rush if they want to be solid on defense. Look at the WFT as a great example of how having a trickle-down effect across the board, which in turn leads to success on that side of the ball. Grady Jarrett has been an elite Defensive Tackle for years now, and has ultimately had most of his prime years being wasted by no pass rush from the edges. Grady Jarrett would like a word with you Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley…Shout out to the Raiders for signing both charity cases, then firing their defensive coordinator immediately after. We will go into further detail in our mock drafts on who the Falcons should target prospect wise, but the only guarantees to return and actually have a role next year on the defensive line are Grady Jarrett and Marlon Davidson.
The next step is to find a cornerback to go opposite of AJ Terrell. Terrell has been arguably the best rookie corner in his class and I look forward to him taking even another step in his development, next becoming a shutdown corner. The Falcons are near the bottom in all pass defense categories due to a combination of ineffectiveness from the rotation of young corners in Kendall Sheffield and Isiah Oliver, poor play from the starting free safety and defensive captain Ricardo Allen, and Keanu Neal still getting right from playing few meaningful snaps for the last 2 years. The Falcons cannot continue to hope that their young guys develop and will have to make some difficult decisions regarding some of these players. Luckily, the Falcons will have former interception leader Damontae Kazee back to either replace Allen or Neal depending what direction the new regime decides to move in this offseason. The team needs to target an experienced cornerback in free agency on a 1 year deal such as Logan Ryan among others that can help set a precedence of being a professional and provide some stability to the young group of players.
Finally, the last major change the Falcons should make to help them make it back to the playoffs is to upgrade their running back group. They made the right decision last offseason in taking a flyer on Todd Gurley, but that ultimately has not paid off. Ever since the Falcons’ Super Bowl season (pain), the team’s Running Backs look like that they are running in mud and quicksand every time that they get the ball. Gurley will obviously never be who he was earlier in his career, but he has been a nice story for the team in need of some feel good moments. He is not the answer, nor is any running back currently on the roster. Every year, teams show that there is value at the position basically anywhere in the draft and with this year’s upcoming rookie class peppered with talent, the Falcons should find a prospect that they are infatuated with in the middle/later rounds to pick to be their bell cow.
I hope this helps show that a potential brighter future could be ahead of us, but knowing the Falcons, we will have heartbreak soon enough. Stay tuned for who they should specifically target in the draft!