New faces: G James Carpenter, G Jamon Brown, G Chris Lindstrom, DE Adrian Clayborn, OT Kaleb McGary, TE Luke Stocker, S J.J. Wilcox
They’re gone: RB Tevin Coleman, OT Ryan Schraeder, CB Robert Alford, DE Bruce Irvin, CB Brian Poole, LB Brooks Reed, DT Terrell McClain, CB Justin Bethel
2019 snapshot: The Falcons went into the offseason with plans to overhaul two key areas: the coaching staff and the offensive line.
They fired coordinators Steve Sarkisian (offense), Marquand Manuel (defense) and Keith Armstrong (special teams), bringing back former O-coordinator Dirk Koetter, turning the defense over to head coach Dan Quinn and hiring Ben Kotwica to run special teams. Koetter’s success with QB Matt Ryan from 2012-14 is encouraging, and Quinn could whip the defense into shape, but that’s a lot of turnover to manage.
Atlanta then threw major resources up front, signing Brown and Carpenter to multi-year deals and adding Lindstrom in the first round to provide three possible starting options at guard. At right tackle, the Falcons released Schraeder, extended Ty Sambrailo (three years, $14.3 million) and traded back into the first round for McGary, who had a heart procedure during camp but is back on the field. Altogether, the rash of moves felt too aggressive, and now the pressure is on for the unit to perform.
On defense, the onus is on key pieces Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen to get and stay healthy, as few players were added other than Clayborn. Alford and Reed were released, and it was surprising to see Poole — an undrafted rookie who ascended to a starting role — untendered as a restricted free agent. With DT Grady Jarrett secured on a long-term deal at the franchise deadline and Jones locked up two days later, Quinn can focus his attention on answering questions at other positions.
Get to know… TE Austin Hooper.
Maybe you’re already familiar with Hooper, but he’s overlooked amidst a stud receiving crew and is unlikely to emerge as more than a No. 2 or No. 3 option in a passing game heavily steered toward All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones. Hooper has breakout potential because of his size and mitts, and made enough plays to get extra attention in the preseason.
Worth the investment?
–At 8.5, the over/under win total for the Falcons is enticing. Matt Ryan is 34 but he’s surrounded by great weapons. If Atlanta avoids the injury epidemic that hit last season, the Falcons are capable of getting to 10 wins.
–Ryan is up to ninth in MVP odds at FanDuel since Andrew Luck’s retirement — at 26/1 — and his prolific passing numbers give supporters all the reason they need to go that route. But he might not represent a pure value when you consider some of the potential for quarterbacks behind Ryan to climb these ranks in-season.
Bottom line: The O-line should be fixed, but the coaching changes might not solve everything. More depth on defense would be useful.