Last year the Atlanta Falcons had a few players have their coming out party, when you talk about AJ Terrell being graded the number two cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, Foyesade Oluokun had a career year and was rewarded with a nice three-year $45 million dollar contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cordarrelle Patterson had his best offensive season in his entire career last year and earned a two-year $10.5 million dollar contract from the Falcons, but who will be the player or who will be those players to put the league on notice this year? Jon Chuckery discussed it on his show Friday night.
1.) Richie Grant
Richie Grant didn’t see much of the field last season at safety and it can take defensive backs some time to adjust to the NFL game, especially when you’re having to learn a complex defensive scheme like Richie Grant is with Dean Pees’ scheme, but towards the end of the season Grant did start to show flashes of improvement, and Jon expects that year two for safety out of UCF will be a “much much better season”. In 2022 expect more than just two pass deflections, two tackles for loss, thirty-five total tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery from the 2021 second round pick.
2.) Arnold Ebiketie
Jon has high hopes for this year’s 38th overall pick, and believes he could have a historic season saying he thinks he will “make a run if not break the Falcons rookie sack record”, granted the record is only seven set by Mike Pitts in1983, and Chuckery acknowledged that, but he still believes Ebiketie has a really good chance to break the record. Jon also believes that Ebiketie is “already their best pass rusher” and Chuckery finished his thought by saying “He knows his job is to go out there and just destroy the quarterbacks.” In just one season at Penn State, after transferring from Temple, Ebiketie stacked up 62 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 pass deflection, and two forced fumbles, so it seems like he’s ready to go and destroy quarterbacks indeed.
3.) Bryan Edwards
The Atlanta Falcons sent a 2023 fifth round pick in exchange for a 2023 seventh round pick and third year receiver Bryan Edwards last Friday, and Jon really likes this pick up for the Falcons saying “He’s got a lot of production that’s in him.” It does seem like Edwards’ best years could most certainly still be ahead of him with this upcoming season only going to be his third season in the league, and with last year being only his second NFL season the numbers weren’t bad at all. The third round pick out of South Carolina hauled in 34 receptions for 571 yards and 3 touchdowns last season with the Raiders averaging 16.8 yards per reception. Bryan did most of his damage out of the slot last season, and could be a big threat in the slot this season with the Falcons as well. Oh yeah, Edwards is 6’3 adding to the already massive wide receiver core the Falcons have built this offseason. With the Raiders bringing in Davante Adams this off-season and already having Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller, it made sense for the Raiders to move on from Edwards, but with Edwards having a fresh start in Atlanta, and with most of the defensive attention going to go towards Kyle Pitts and Drake London this season, Bryan Edwards could be primed for a breakout season with the Dirty Birds.
4.) Auden Tate
Along with Bryan Edwards the Atlanta Falcons also brought in another huge wide receiver when they signed 6’5 228 pound receiver Auden Tate. Tate was a seventh round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals back in 2018 who, much like Bryan Edwards, hasn’t gotten the opportunities he’d hoped to get with the team that drafted him. However, for Tate it’s been a multitude of injuries that have kept him out of the mix and off the field for the Bengals, and now of course the reigning AFC Champions have built their own young dynamic receiving core that doesn’t include Auden Tate, but does include Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and of course Ja’Marr Chase. Jon believes Tate “has the size and physicality, good catch radius, he’s a guy that if you get it near him he can catch it.” Jon thinks that Tate or Edwards breaks out for the Falcons this year and “one of those two guys emerges in the passing game”.
Richie Grant may not turn into the next Ed Reed in his sophomore season, Arnold Ebekitie may not have 12 sacks in his rookie season, and Bryan Edwards and Auden Tate may not catch ten touchdown passes this season, but maybe they will. Maybe one, two, three, or all four of these players have a coming out party this season with the Atlanta Falcons and prove to be vital to the future success of the Falcons, we can only speculate now, but soon time will tell.