Rise Up?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Falcons 2024 preseason kicks off August 6th down in Miami against the Dolphins and the regular season starts on September 8th at home against Pittsburgh.

We know they made a big move in the offseason by signing Kirk Cousins. He was signed in March to a four-year, $180 million contract. That seems like a move to show Atlanta is all in and ready to win now.

Surprisingly, the next month in the NFL Draft they took QB Michael Penix Jr in the first round (8th overall). That caused the entire NFL world to look at them and wonder, what’s going on? This is a move that will not pay off for at least two seasons. It would have made more sense to draft a high caliber pass rusher that can help the team immediately.

Cousins tore his Achilles in Week 8 last season, so that is concerning. Prior to suffering the injury, Cousins had reached a career-high in Pro Football Focus’ adjusted completion percentage. Cousins wasn’t as aggressive with his attempts, but his accuracy remained high when he did throw long: sixth in deep passing rating and 10th in deep yards.

The Falcons are coming off their third consecutive 7-10 season. Arthur Smith was fired and he was replaced by Raheem Morris. Morris was the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams from 2021-23. He was an assistant coach with Atlanta from 2015-20. He was also the head coach for Tampa Bay from 2009-11.

The offensive side of the ball is Atlanta’s strength. They have very solid skill position players with running backs Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.

The offensive line is tough and physical. Guard Chris Lindstrom was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2022 and 2023. I do want to point out that Cousins did have superior talent in Minnesota and we saw what he did with that.

For London, having consistent QB play could take his game to the next level. He is 6’4, 213 pounds and he is a big, physical receiver. They have been working on timing thus far.

“I pride myself on being able to catch the ball from anybody, so I don’t really look at that,” London said on the final day of the team’s minicamp. “It’s kind of just wherever the ball is thrown, I try to go get it.”

London paused and smiled before adding: “(Cousins) throws it well, though.”

Atlanta ranked 19th in total defense and 21st in sacks. It seems like every season we talk about how they can’t rush the passer. This year will not be any different.

Safety Jessie Bates III was the other Falcon selected to the Pro Bowl in 2023.

The NFC South isn’t the toughest division but New Orleans and Tampa Bay are decent teams.

The first three games of the season are Pittsburgh, at Philadelphia and Kansas City. The only game I think they have a chance to win is against the Steelers.

The next games are New Orleans, Tampa Bay, at Carolina, Seattle, at Tampa Bay, Dallas, at New Orleans and at Denver before the Week 12 bye. The Falcons will have to at least split the games with the Saints and Bucs. Carolina should be an easy win. There aren’t any great teams here so they have a chance to win all of these.

The rest of the games are the LA Chargers, at Minnesota, at Las Vegas, New York Giants, at Washington and Carolina. Honestly, these should all be wins if the main starters are healthy.

I believe the Falcons can win 10 or 11 games.