Atlanta Falcons 2020 Team Overview
Falcons 2020 Team Overview
Arthur Blank. Blank is the cofounder of Home Depot. Blank is a very involved owner. He is frequently on the sidelines during games since he became owner of the Falcons in 2002.
He has mixed reviews from a lot of the fanbase. Some really like him and others think he is too hands on. He has a pretty good reputation with the players.
I believe that the players like him a lot due to them getting paid on time and in good amounts. He definitely has a big decision this year if the Falcons are bad again.
He might have to let go of long time General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Dan Quinn.
Thomas Dimitroff. Dimitroff has been the GM of the Falcons since 2008.
Dimitroff spent a long time as an NFL scout but later became the director of scouting for the New England Patriots from 2002-2007. This led him to getting the GM job in Atlanta.
He has had ups and downs with Atlanta, He has only had 4 losing seasons since 2008 but 2 of them have been the past 2 seasons.
He has to find success in 2020 in order to keep his job.
Dan Quinn. Quinn is another guy in the hot seat. He was known as the great defensive coordinator that helped Seattle make it to back to back super bowls.
They won one and lost the other. However, both of those defensive units were incredible. His defenses in Atlanta have been far from incredible.
All of his defenses, except for 2017 & 2015, have been in the bottom 25% of the NFL in points allowed. It’s not just one problem either, it’s basically everything.
They aren’t good against the run and they don’t stop the pass at all.
They are also really bad at generating turnovers the past 3 seasons.
To make it even worse, if it could even get worse, is that this team was 11th worst in sacks in 2018 and 4th worst in sacks in 2019.
Quinn tried fixing the problem in 2019 by becoming the defensive coordinator and play caller but that didn’t work either.
The Falcons defense has to play better in 2020 or this will probably be Quinn’s last year in Atlanta.
Fantasy Outlook for the Falcons
QB: Matt Ryan
Ryan has been up and down almost every other year in terms of being a top 5 fantasy QB. If that holds true then Ryan will be a top 5 fantasy QB this year in 2020.
A lot has to come true for Ryan in order for this to happen. The Falcons have to have better offensive line play. I think they do in 2020 with all of their starters coming back and they do have talent in 4 out of the 5 spots and with NFL worth back ups.
If the line does in fact play a little better then that will give the Falcons a much better run game.
The offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter admitted that he has to run the ball more this year. If they can even be a middle of the pack rushing team in 2020 then this offense should take off.
Koetter also said that RB Todd Gurley looked healthy last season with the Rams but won’t know for sure if he can make it through the season in 2020.
However, the Falcons and Koetter are very high on Gurley returning back to his home state in Georgia and having a great year.
An average run game with Gurley will help Matt Ryan have another top 5 fantasy season. Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL and Calvin Ridley is almost just as talented as Julio.
Russell Gage is also a nice 3rd option at WR. Matt Ryan loves tight ends, just ask Austin Hooper and Tony Gonzalez.
The Falcons traded with the Ravens and got tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason. Ryan has plenty of options and believes that he and Dirk Koetter will have better alignment in 2020.
The right tackle position is probably the biggest concern to Ryan having a great year in 2020 outside of an improved run game.
Last year’s rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary led the league in allowing 13 sacks. McGary is slated to start in 2020 again but will obviously be on short leash.
With all of this being said. I don’t think Ryan will be a top 5 fantasy QB but I definitely think that he and OC Dirk Koetter take a big step from 2019 and that Ryan finishes as a top 10 fantasy QB.
Even though Ryan should have a much better year in 2020 his average draft position is 71st overall.
That is way too high for me to be drafting Ryan.
I wouldn’t take ryan unless he fell to me in the 9th round. There are quarterbacks of equal value in the 9th round. I would probably stray away from Ryan unless he falls to you.
RB: Todd Gurley
Hop on the Todd Gurley revenge tour. Todd Gurley had 60 less touches in 2019 then he did in 2018. He still finished as the 14th best fantasy RB in half PPR leagues.
I know he only had 3.8 yards per carry but the Rams back ups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson only had 3.7 & 3.8 yards per carry with the Rams.
The Rams offense was a mess last year and Gurley still was able to score 14 touchdowns. I think the 14th best fantasy RB in 2020 is Gurley’s floor.
Gurley says he feels great and has no knee pain. However, every player is going to tell the media and coaches that they feel great. It will be another thing to actually see him make it to week 16 for your fantasy championship game.
The OC, Dirk Koetter has said that the days of handing it off 30 times a game is over. So this is a clear indication that Gurley will probably never get more than 20 rushes a game. Gurley should however have around 3 to 4 receptions a game.
So let’s just say he has around 20 touches a game at worst.
I predict that Gurley is rejuvenated mentally leaving a bad Ram’s situation and returning to the state in which he played college ball at, UGA.
I feel strongly that Gurley has over 1,100 yards rushing, over 300 yards receiving and 14 total touchdowns. This will easily put Gurley as a top 10 fantasy running back in 2020.
WR: Julio Jones
Let’s keep this one short and sweet. Julio Jones’ worst fantasy finish among receivers in the last 5 seasons has been 6th.
He is the safest and reliable pick to get you around 15 points every week. Matt Ryan overly favors Julio compared to Calvin Ridley.
I think this will finally be the year that Ridley gets more targets but it won’t be enough to stop Julio from producing.
If anything it might help boost Matt Ryan’s and Julio’s stats. Julio is well worth the draft pick, wherever you take him.
WR: Calvin Ridley
Dirk Koetter, the offensive coordinator says that Ridley needs to work on his route running in order to take the next step.
Ridley is an extremely hard worker and his wide receiver coach in 2018 said that Ridley burned out by the end of 2018 because he was working too hard.
Koetter also mentioned that he needed to call more plays for Ridley in the 2nd half of last season. Koetter did and Ridley put up great numbers but then had an injury that sidelined him for the final couple of games in 2019.
Matt Ryan also needs to trust Ridley more in order for Ridley to have better production. Traditionally, the 3rd season in the NFL is where RB’s and WR’s have a break out year or even their best season.
This is Ridley’s 3rd year. If Ridley stays healthy, I see no reason for him to make the splash into the top 10 fantasy WR’s in 2020.
I also think that the Falcons defense is nothing special and will be giving up points in 2020. This will lead to more shootouts.
Not necessarily that the Falcons will be down a lot in games this season but that they will be in high scoring affairs.
All of these insights strongly point to Ridley having his first 1,000 yard receiving season and for him to get back into double digit touchdowns like his rookie season.
Ridley will be a steal if you can get him in your 4th round. Don’t be afraid to draft him in your 3rd round either.
TE: Hayden Hurst
Austin Hooper caught over 70 passes in both the 2018 and 2019 season with the Falcons at tight end. Matt Ryan loves tight ends.
The Falcons lost Hooper in free agency but traded for Hayden Hurst from the Ravens. Hurst was a 1st round pick of the Ravens but I guess since Mark Adrewes had such a great season with the Ravens last year that the Ravens felt they could let Hurst go.
Anywho, Hurst is being drafted around the 9th round of fantasy drafts. That would be a good time to draft him too. I think Hurst will have a very impressive year.
There isn’t anybody behind him that will threaten his receptions either. Hooper was the 6th best TE in both 2018 and 2019. I think Hurst will find himself in the top 10 this 2020 season.
Falcons Offensive Preview 2020
Offensive: Dirk Koetter. Koetter is the offensive coordinator and play caller. Koetter used to be the Jaguars long time OC when they ran the ball really well with Maurice Jones-Drew. Then he went to Atlanta in 2012 and was the OC for 3 years.
He went away from running the ball a lot to having a successful passing game. The Falcons made it all the way to the NFC championship game but lost at home to the 49ers in 2012.
He stayed 2 more years with the Falcons but then became the OC in Tampa Bay. Koetter then was promoted 1 year after being the OC in Tampa Bay to the Head Coach position.
I believe he was the interim head coach and then kept the reigns after the season. He was the head coach for 3 more years but then got fired after have bad back to back seasons.
In Tampa Bay, he had a great running game his first year as OC. The next couple of years he had great passing games but that was mostly because the Buccaneers were always in high scoring shootouts. But still, the offense was able to make those games shootouts too.
After being fired in Tampa Bay, he joined the Falcons again in 2019. He replaced Steve Sarkisian. In 2019, Koetter was asked to run an offense that was not his.
See, the quarterback Matt Ryan still prefers running the offensive scheme put into place in 2016 by Kyle Shannahan. This scheme is the west coast offense that relies heavily on the zone run plays that help set up play action throws.
Koetter’s offenses are known for more vertical passing plays. Matt Ryan has come out as recent as June 2020, saying that he believes Koetter has a lot better grasp of the terminology that Ryan likes to use.
The Falcons did have a great record down the stretch finishing 6-2. Ryan, accredits this to Koetter picking things up as the season went on.
Koetter is well aware that they need to run the ball better in 2019 in order to set up the passing plays and to keep the offense balanced.
They brought in Todd Gurley as the new running back but even Koetter has said nobody knows what Gurley has in the tank. Gurley is 25 years old but has had lingering knee issues that stem back to the 2018 regular season.
Koetter says after watching the tape of Gurley last season with the Rams that Gurley still looked great.
However, Koetter says that is great but doesn’t know if Gurley can last the entire season. Any way you slice it, Koetter hinted and pretty much stated that Gurley will not be getting more than 20 carries a game.
The other concern is that the offensive line did not play well either in 2019. A lot of people believe that this was due to the offensive scheme that Koetter was trying to force on the Falcons.
Some people believe that it was due to bad personnel on the O-line. It probably is a combination of all of that and also that the Falcons were down in the first half of their first 8 games making them predictable in calling passing plays.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is a problem. Luckily Koetter is fully aware that the Falcons have to run the ball better this year.
The talent is there at WR and they traded for a tight end in Hayden Hurst. They have good backup running backs in Ito Smith and Brian Hill to keep Gurley fresh all season.
They made some moves to help the offensive line but a lot of the same guys came back. Bottom line is that Matt Ryan has had success with Koetter as the OC in 2012 and holds Koetter in high regard.
Ryan says that Koetter is a great play caller and that this season the offense should click really well now that Koetter knows the terminology and what Ryan wants to do in the passing game.
We will find out.
Falcons Defensive Preview 2020
The defensive coordinator in 2020 will be Raheem Morris. Morris has a daunting task of turning around a defense that has struggled mightily.
Just look at what I read in the section under Dan Quinn to fully understand where this defensive unit is at after 2019.
To sum it up, they are 4th worst in sacks, not good at generating turnovers and can’t stop the run or pass. Not much defense going on here.
Now back to Morris. Morris has primarily been a defensive backs coach but was also a head coach for the Buccaneers in 2009-2011. He was also the defensive coordinator for the Bucs in 09’ and 10’. Those defensive units were not very good.
Then he went to Washington for a couple years and has been with the Falcons as a defensive and offensive coach since 2015.
In the 2nd half of the 2019 season Dan Quinn let Morris call primarily the 3rd down defensive plays and the Falcons played much better defense which resulted in a 6-2 record.
So yea, that’s the brief history of Morris so let’s look at what his plans are for 2020. Morris has said in March of 2020 that he wants to disguise what defense he shows the quarterbacks in order to get them out of their comfort zone and make them think.
They seemed to play better down the stretch when the Falcons played zone according to Bucs head coach Bruce Arians.
What will help all of this is the defensive line. The Falcons are trying to get better at this spot by drafting Marlon Davidson out of Auburn in the 2nd round.
Davidson lined up at every position on the defensive line and has even rushed the passer standing up at 280 pounds.
His weakness is getting off of blockers in the run game. The Falcons also added a former 1st round draft pick in Dante Fowler this free agency.
Fowler had his best year with the Rams in 2019 in producing 11.5 sacks and a lot more quarterback pressures. The other pass rusher they added in free agency was Charles Harris, he was another 1st round draft pick.
However, Harris has grossly underperformed with the Dolphins and looks to be only a rotational player.
Takk McKinley is already on the team but the Falcons declined his 5th year option due to his lack of production in rushing the quarterback.
Takk only has 16.5 sacks in 3 seasons and was a 1st round pick as well. Grady Jarret is their stud in the middle. He is a Pro Bowler and also their best D-lineman.
Even though the Falcons struggle against the run last season, they didn’t do a bad job in the middle.
This was also due to Jarret’s side kick, Tyeler Davison. Davison just signed a 3 year contract extension this offseason. The Falcons also have Allen Bailey.
Bailey played 8 years previously in Kansas City before joining the Falcons in 2019. He only had 1 sack last year and is now 31 years old.
Overall, the defensive line should be pretty good to average against the run but seriously lacks another pass rusher opposite of Fowler.
Fowler is also a little unproven as well. The pass rush is a glaring weakness on this team that will have to rely on blitzing in order to disrupt the quarterback in 2020.
The starting linebackers will most likely be Foyesade Oluokun alongside pro bowler Deion Jones.
Oluokun was a 6th round pick out of Yale and is described as a great tackler and smart player by the Falcons coaching staff.
If they don’t like Oluokun then they have veteran Deone Bucannon but Bucannon has had trouble staying healthy they past couple of years and is now 28 years old and undersized at LB.
The other option they have is 4th round rookie Mykal Walker out of Fresno State. Walker will definitely be used somewhere on the field on Sundays.
He has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker and has rushed off the edge like a defensive end.
He was very productive and caused a lot of turnovers and sacks his last 2 years in college. Deion Jones is definitely the great linebacker who can stuff the run and defend the pass. The story next to him will probably be a mix of the other 3 players I mentioned.
It should be a serviceable and maybe at times good linebacking tandem but nothing amazing.
The secondary is very inexperienced or just plain bad at cornerback but have 2 really good starting safeties if they are healthy.
Let’s start with cornerback. The Falcons drafted CB AJ Terrell in the 1st round of the 2020 draft.
AJ Terrell has had some great moments at Clemson but is known for being a little handsy and also got beat a lot in the national championship game against LSU.
The other starting cornerback will probably be Isaiah Oliver. Oliver will be in his 3rd year this season and started to get better after the bye week in 2019.
He had a horrible start to 2019 by giving up pretty much everything.
The Falcons signed a new secondary coach in Joe Whitt. He was in Green Bay for a long time and was with Cleveland last year.
He helped the Browns have the 7th best passing defense last year. He thinks if Oliver is more consistent with his technique throughout the entire year that Oliver can be really good. Oliver is still a big question mark.
He might pan out but nothing has sold anybody on that claim. The other cornerback option is Kendall Sheffield who was the 4th round draft pick out of The Ohio State University in 2019.
Sheffield has a ton of physical ability in that he set the Ohio State 60 meter track record with a time of 6.663 seconds.
However, this speed didn’t translate very well last year in 11 starts. Sheffield flashed some ability but gave up a lot of receptions.
There isn’t much depth behind these 3 players and coach Joe Whitt is going to have his hands full with these youngsters.
The safety’s are better than the cornerback group. They are led by Pro Bowler Keanu Neal but Neal has basically missed the last 2 seasons due to an ACL injury in 2018 and an achilles injury in 2019.
He says he feels great and hopefully he does. He is a really savvy football player that plays with a lot of fire.
The safety next to him will be Ricardo Allen. Allen started all 16 games last year and has been a great player for this Atlanta defense for the past 6 seasons.
Behind these 2 starters is Damontae Kazee. Kazee can play both safety and corner. This is great news for the unproven cornerbacks on the team.
Head coach Dan Quinn said that Kazee will remain at safety but it will be hard to keep him there if the cornerbacks do not perform. Kazee has 10 interceptions in the last 2 seasons. He is a playmaker.
I suspect Kazee will make it on the field on 3rd downs regularly to start off the season. The other safety is Sharrod Neasman.
Neasman hasn’t played much and is purely used as depth on this roster.
Overall, this is a lot to digest. I think the run defense gets a little better and will be better if Keanu Neal is healthy the entire year.
Neal has a knack for helping out in the run. Also, Fowler is a lot better against the run then Vic Beasely, who was on the team last year but isn’t anymore.
I don’t know if I would consider this run defense top 10 in the NFL but it shouldn’t be worse than 16th. The main concern with the front 7 is the pass rush.
Fowler is unproven and only had one good season in last season with the Rams. He just signed a big contract and has to produce double digit sacks like he did last year with 11.5.
The biggest concern is between Takk McKinely and Charles Harris stepping up and being a reliable pass rusher in 2020.
Both of them have underperformed in the NFL. The interior will provide decent pass rush with pro bowler Grady Jarret and talented 2nd round draft pick Marlon Davison.
However, I know this pass rush is not going to be good enough to be a top half of the league pass rush. They will have to rely on blitzing to cause pressure on the quarterback.
The secondary has promise because of the 2 really good safeties in Neal and Allen. However, the cornerbacks are very concerning.
The 1st round rookie, AJ Terrell, out of Clemson has flashed ability in college but has also been exploited in certain games and situations.
The other 2 cornerbacks in Sheffield and Oliver are projects too. The backup safety, Kazee, might have to start at corner before the season is done.
In a division where you have to play Mike Evans and Michael Thomas 4 times in 1 year, this doesn’t look good for those corners and this defense.
Lack of pass rush and inability to cover at the cornerback positions spells big time trouble. This defense should be in the back half of the NFL.
Fun Facts About Coaches
Will Harriger is a game manager coach. I don’t know the history of Dan Quinn but it looks like he might be a bad game manager.
Bob Sutton is a defensive analyst and used to be the long time defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, used to be the Falcons OC before when Matt Ryan was here.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris used to be the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Contract Year Players:
RB: Todd Gurley
SS: Keanu Neal
K: YoungHoe Koo
FS: Damontae Kazee
DE: Takk McKinely
Falcons Offensive Line Preview
The offensive line has a couple of players who are pretty good. Nobody is going to blow you away on this line. The best player is Left Tackle, Jake Matthews.
Matthews is still considered to be a top tackle in the NFL. He is great at zone blocking and is still effective as a pass protector.
The next best player on the line is Center, Alex Mack. This might be Mack’s final year in the NFL. He is going to be 35 years old this season.
His performance slightly regressed last season. Atlanta is hoping that he returns to a better form this season but it will be interesting to see how that plays out.
In 2019, the Falcons used 2 first round draft picks on offensive lineman. With the 14th overall selection in the 2019 draft, the Falcons drafted Chris Lindstrom.
Then at the 31st overall selections in the 2019 draft, the Falcons drafted Kaleb McGary. Let’s start with Lindstrom. Lindstrom was a bit of a reach considered by many.
However, the Falcons really wanted him and obviously didn’t care about taking him at 14th overall. Lindstrom came from Boston College and was injured for most of the 2018 season but started at Right Guard 5 games last season.
Center Alex Mack said that Lindstrom can be as good as he wants to be. Alex Mack is a straight shooter and has had a great career so Mack’s words hold a lot of weight.
At the worst, Mack should become pretty darn good by the midpoint of this season. Now let’s look at McGary.
McGary played college ball at Washington and started all 16 games for the Falcons last season. McGary was really bad.
He gave up the most sacks in the league at the Right Tackle position with 13. Head coach Dan Quinn says that he believes McGary has grown a lot since last year and will have a good year.
However, that’s just a bunch of coach talk from Quinn. Bottom line is that McGary was not good and to claim that he will be this year is a very bold prediction.
If McGary does not improve then back up Matt Gono will most likely get a chance to play. Gono is a hard working back up that has played all over the Falcons offensive line.
He isn’t amazing either but might have a chance to start at righ tackle or left guard. Speaking of left guard, that is the last position to speak about.
This is most likely going to be James Carpenter’s position to start off with.
However, Jamon Brown and 3rd round rookie Matt Hennessey will also be competing and will get chances to play if Carpenter played like last season.
The left guard position is the most concerning spot on this O-line. Carpenter and Brown were supposed to be great offseason signing in 2019 but they didn’t perform well.
It was hard to see from Falcons fans that those 2 players didn’t pan out in 2019 because they played pretty well with their former teams.
Overall, this O-line isn’t going to be a terrible run blocking line. I think they will be average and maybe have the potential to be a little above average.
However, the pass protection is concerning. McGary has to be better this year and maybe he is if the Falcons have a better run game this season.
This line is a middle of the pack line with a very very small glimmer of hope that it can become a top 15 line in the NFL.