2016 was a season filled with excitement for Atlanta Falcons fans, even though they lost the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan became the franchise’s first NFL MVP and Kyle Shanahan was named Assistant Coach of the year.
These two delivered one of the best offenses in NFL history and found a way to light up the scoreboard each and every week. This Falcons team has definitely come a long way from their 2013-2015 seasons but there are still a few questions left to be answered in 2017.
Three Questions for Atlanta Falcons Offense
How Will the Atlanta Offense Look Under Sarkisian?
Without a doubt, the biggest concern coming into the offseason was the departure of Kyle Shanahan. Matt Ryan has spent the majority of his NFL career learning new playbooks as Atlanta has had a difficult time hanging on to offensive coordinators.
Ryan was finally comfortable in his second year under Shanahan’s system and, of course, the success led to him being heavily sought after. While we may be happy for him (or bitter from his Super Bowl play calling), the idea of a new coordinator is a little scary.
Fortunately, Dan Quinn was able to find someone who could take over the current offense rather than bring in a new scheme. Steve Sarkisian is very well known for his offenses (yes, he’s known for other things but mostly offense).
Sarkisian runs a very similar offense to Shanahan’s and could even make some minor improvements to fit the Falcons better. One thing that comes to mind is the fake screen pass that Sarkisian ran at Alabama.
After seeing just how good Taylor Gabriel was on the screen passes last season, defenses will run up to catch Gabriel on the screen only to realize Julio Jones is 20-30 yards deep catching a touchdown pass.
How Good Will the Offensive Line Be?
Jake Matthews has been improving and was having a pretty solid year before injuring his knee in the Kansas City game. Matthews was still able to come back and start every game, but his effectiveness declined after the injury.
Alex Mack was a dominant force and, without a doubt, the biggest free agent signing for Atlanta last season. Mack broke his leg in the Green Bay game and played through it in the Super Bowl. It was evident that he was limited from the injury, however.
Offensive lineman are far from light and depend heavily on being able to plant their legs. At 31 years old, there’s no telling how well Mack will recover from the injury. Hopefully everything will heal nicely and Mack can continue to dominate the tranches next season.
Ryan Schraeder had a pretty solid 2016. After injuring his ankle in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, Schraeder went down in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game. After the game, it was confirmed that Schraeder had torn a ligament in his ankle.
The guard position is the only one that doesn’t have an injury concern coming into 2017. Andy Levitre was a huge boost to the pass protection. The concern coming into next season is the departure of Chris Chester. Chester wasn’t the best lineman on Atlanta’s front but he was the starter, nonetheless.
Atlanta did draft Wes Schweitzer in 2016. They also have Ben Garland and, recently signed, Hugh Thornton to potentially fill the hole at the right guard position. With Thornton and Garland being the only ones to have NFL experience, one of them will more than likely take over.
How Good Will the Run Game be Without DiMarco?
The run game was a huge factor to the Falcons success last season and anytime you have success running the ball, credit has to be given to the blockers. Patrick DiMarco is, without a doubt, one of the best fullbacks in the League right now. He has been a solid blocker, as well as receiver, for the Falcons in his four years with the team.
Not only was DiMarco a huge factor in the run game, Matt Ryan found success throwing him the ball as well. DiMarco finished the season with seven catches for 52 yards and a touchdown plus three receptions for 43 yards in the playoffs.
Vainuku doesn’t have any NFL experience but was apart of Sarkisian’s offense at USC and should be familiar with his coaching style, which is a plus.
Derrick Coleman is mostly known for his Duracell commercial and for blocking for Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Some off the field concerns led to his suspension and release from the Seahawks but Atlanta was willing to give him a chance at redemption.
Coleman seems to be the closest to DiMarco we could get but Vainuku can’t be counted out. We should see a nice comptetion unfold during training camp and the preseason.