Don’t let that 0-2 record fool you, the Falcons can score points in bunches. Led by veteran gunslinger Matt Ryan and his two elite weapons, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, the Falcons look to make it a track meet against the Bears on Sunday. I tracked down The Falcoholic’s Adnan Ikic to learn more about this high flying offense, the future of Head Coach Dan Quinn and his struggling defense, and the snazzy new duds the Falcons are rocking this year ahead of this week’s game.
Windy City Gridiron: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley form a scary trio. Would you say that the identity of this 2020 Falcons squad is to sling it around the yard and try to win shootouts?
The Falcoholic: I’d say that’s a fair assessment of the 2020 Falcons. The team came into the season with hopes of establishing the run with Todd Gurley and not being absolutely repulsive on the defensive side of the ball but that hasn’t come to fruition. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will do his best to not abandon the run game, but most weeks he won’t have much of a choice given how bad the defense is. He had the same mentality last year and Matt Ryan was still third in the league in passing attempts (just 10 behind Goff and Winston) because the team was playing catch up all year. We should see more of the same as this season progresses.
WCG: We’re now in year 6 of the Dan Quinn era. Obviously, the Falcons were in the Super Bowl in 2016, but Quinn’s Falcons have finished 7-9 the last two years and are off to a rough start in 2020. As a defensive-minded Head Coach, his squads haven’t finished in the top half of the league in DVOA since his arrival. Is his job in jeopardy and if so, what does he need to do this year to save his job? Can the Falcons compete with the Saints and Bucs this year or are they doomed for another sub-.500 season?
TF: Dan Quinn is very much on the hot seat. In truth, he should have been fired after last year’s 7-9 season given how much this team underachieved. The 6-2 second half of the season saved his job but that was the exact same scenario we saw play out in 2018 as well. Another losing season will surely be the final nail in the coffin, and if it isn’t the fanbase may riot. At minimum he likely needs to make the playoffs and maybe even win a playoff game to have a year 7 as Atlanta’s head coach. I definitely think this team has the talent to compete with the Saints and Bucs (who haven’t exactly looked like world beaters the first two weeks either) but the coaching may end up dooming them for a third consecutive year. I predicted 9-7 before the season and am leaning more toward 8-8 now.
WCG: I want to drill down a little more on that defense because they came out on fire against Dallas, forcing turnovers left and right with Peanut Punches, but seemed to just lay down after the initial surge. Is there a piece of this defense you feel good about and is there a part that still worries you against an offense like the Bears that has shown far less consistency and explosiveness than the Seahawks or Cowboys?
TF: The defense was very aggressive early and it was paying dividends, but Quinn and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris went completely conservative after the initial success, and that led to Dak Prescott throwing it up and down the field. Dallas’ use of tempo was also incredibly affective as Atlanta’s coaches outright made no adjustments to it. If fully healthy, the defensive line is the strength of this unit (both starting pass rushers got hurt in Dallas, and are questionable for this Sunday, however). The secondary is a major point of weakness and I’m worried about them against any opponent.
WCG: Everyone knows about Ryan, Julio, and Ridley, and of course off-season acquisition Todd Gurley III, but that’s probably about it for the average fan. Who are the players that Bears fans really need to know before Sunday’s game?
TF: Starting defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is the anchor of this defensive unit and he may be the best player on the roster not named Julio Jones or Matt Ryan. Jarrett has had a PFF grade of over 90 in each of the past two seasons and is an elite defensive tackle, though very underrated because of the pieces he has around him. Deion Jones is the team’s best linebacker and a former Pro Bowler. A more under the radar name is Foye Oluokun — a former 6th round pick who’s really begun coming into his own as a starting LB this season. He forced three fumbles in the first quarter on Sunday and his absence was more than felt when he departed with a hamstring injury. His status for Week 3 is up in the air for now.
WCG: I have to give a shout out to the uniform redesign. A lot of teams refresh their look and end up doing some weird things but Atlanta did it right. Did you and your friends run out and buy the new look and if so, what player seems to dominate jersey sales?
TF: I like the new look unis as well, even though there was some national criticism about them when they were first revealed. The black ones have looked great in action and the all whites may look even better when they’re put to use. I don’t have any stats in front of me but I’d venture to guess that Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are the top sellers, as would be expected. It also wouldn’t surprise me if someone told me that Todd Gurley is the number 1 seller. He’s achieved cult hero status in the state of Georgia for what he did at the University of Georgia in his collegiate days.
The issue with the jerseys is that a majority of fans who ordered them when they were first released in April still haven’t received them. This is a really bad look when the team has launched a PR campaign sending custom jerseys to almost everyone in local media, and a few in the national media — even those who have nothing to do with the Falcons (such as Stephen A. Smith, Shaquille O’Neil, Charles Barkely, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith ect.). It’s been a series of mis-steps for the Falcons both on and off the field since the season started.
Thank you to Adnan for the knowledge!