The football season is finally upon us after what seemed like a long offseason. The Atlanta Falcons hired a new general manager in Terry Fontenot, and also added Arthur Smith as their head coach.
The new regime had to make some bold decisions coming in given the financial ramifications of the previous regime. In order to have enough money to sign their draft class, Fontenot had to trade away arguably the most talented player in Falcons history, Julio Jones.
The Falcons now have their 90 man roster and practice is officially underway. However, we know that practice doesn’t officially begin until they put the pads on.
Before we get there, here are three bold predictions of my own before the bodies really start flying around.
The starting outside linebacker opposite of Dante Fowler Jr. isn’t on this roster
Dean Pees has made it very clear that he is going to bring more pressure this year. In certain pass situations though, he will have to count on individual guys up front to beat their man. Last year Fowler was brought in to be one of those guys. The 2020 season ended up being a disappointment given that Fowler only had three sacks. He took a pay cut and the hope is that he bounces back and becomes a guy that Pees can count on when sack opportunities come about. Fowler can’t be the only edge rusher with a history of getting home. The Falcons will have to consider bringing in some veteran help. With Fowler being added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the sense of urgency is definitely heightened. There are some viable free agent pass rushers out there. Justin Houston, who played for the Indianapolis Colts last year, is a viable option. He had eight sacks in 2020, and is not too far removed from double digit sacks in 2019. Also, Olivier Vernon, who played for the Cleveland Browns, is a guy that can win a one on one battle. The Falcons, traditionally, have been one of the worst teams in the NFL sacking the quarterback. It’s time for a change.
Isaiah Oliver won’t make the 53 man roster
Isaiah Oliver is a name that we all have become familiar with. It’s safe to say that he has had his struggles at the cornerback position. The expectations were put on him in 2018 when he was drafted in the second round. Most of the guys drafted there expect to start. In 2020, when Dan Quinn was fired, Oliver was moved from playing on the outside to nickel cornerback. Interim head coach Raheem Morris was determined to find a spot for him and, at times, Oliver did look like a serviceable defensive back in the NFL. With the new regime, Oliver has been getting repetitions at safety. That’s a position that has been totally revamped. Veterans Duron Harmon and Erik Harris were brought in to help out on the back end of this defense. Also, the Falcons invested a second round pick in Richie Grant. On top of that, Oliver is going into the final year of his rookie deal. It is going to be extremely difficult for him to make this roster.
Kaleb McGary won’t be the starter at RT
Kaleb McGary has dealt with injuries ever since he walked through the door at Flowery Branch in 2019. This year seems to be no different as he was just added to the PUP list (Being that he was put on there before the season, he can come off of the list at any time). This is bad timing on the right tackle out of Battle Ground, Washington. He is in the category of having to prove his worth to this new regime. The Falcons seemingly already have a plan in place to replace him. There is Jalen Mayfield, who was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft, and took snaps in the spring with McGary out. Also, there is Jason Spriggs, who played in eight games with the Chicago Bears in 2020, and has predominantly played at right tackle throughout his career. There is an old saying that comes to mind when I think about McGary, and that is “you can’t make the club in the tub”.