Atlanta Falcons: What’s wrong on offense?


The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.

Those words were first spoken by Vince Lombardi, but unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons, they are completely underachieving with what they have. What they have is a trio on offense of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman.

Ryan has built a reputation as one of the league’s best and most reliable passers, and he has three Pro Bowls to strengthen his case. Jones has two Pro Bowls to his name, and it’s hard to name a receiver better than him. Freeman has emerged as a star in the Atlanta backfield, and currently leads the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns.

In 2014, the offensive line was a major concern. But the play in the trenches has been greatly improved this season. The run game was a glaring weakness; now it’s a strength. So what has gone wrong?

Why has a team averaging 32.4 points and completing 51 percent of third downs through the first five games of the season dropped to 17 points and 36 percent of third downs in its past three?

Who is the No. 2 receiver?

I don’t care how good Julio Jones is, he can’t do it all on his own. Who is the No. 2? Leonard Hankerson? Roddy White? It’s hard to pick either of those two with a straight face.

The second receiver must have good hands, and Hankerson has dropped the football way too often. He’s been plagued with injuries throughout his career, and has already missed time with a ribs injury and now a hamstring injury this season. White is not the same player he once was. Is he a useful target? Sure. But he doesn’t have the consistency anymore to be the second option behind Jones.

"“We’re doing ok, 6-2 isn’t too bad,” White said. “We should be better than that, we can play better on the offensive side of the ball, but we’ll continue to get better. Like coach says, we’re going to go out there and grind, and continue to get better.”"

The fact is, Atlanta is desperately in need of someone to fill this void. Hankerson can play a key role on this offense moving forward, but not as the No. 2 receiver. Injuries are a recurring problem and his performances have been too inconsistent.

Jones is an elite receiver who will always get the most targets fired his way, but he needs someone alongside him to ease the coverage.

Sep 20, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) during the pre game warmup for their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports


Both of the Falcons’ losses this season were avoidable. New Orleans and Tampa Bay deserve credit for their wins, and it would be disrespectful to say they only won because of Atlanta’s mistakes. The other team gets paid too, after all.

More from Blogging Dirty

But what was the key in those losses? Turnovers. You could say the Saints forced the Falcons into mistakes for the most part, and that would be a fair assessment. But against the Bucs, the Falcons were making unforced errors and completely shooting themselves in the foot.

Julio Jones had the ball ripped out of his hands on the first one. This is unacceptable. But again, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to Kwon Alexander who made a great play. Matt Ryan’s interception was poor. He stared down his receiver and threw the football into traffic. Alexander made the play again, and he deserves credit, but Ryan was just asking to be picked.

The other two were completely unacceptable. Mike Person‘s snap rolled across the floor and gave neither Ryan or Devonta Freeman any shot of recovering it. Playoff teams don’t make those mistakes. Ryan and Freeman were involved in the final turnover, and unlike the botched snap, this one was on them. In a move as simple as a handoff, you can’t cough up the football.

"“We dug ourselves too deep of a hole. I expect nothing less than us to continue to compete for however long we need to play. I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” Matt Ryan said. “I think we have the right guys in the right mindset that regardless of the situation, we’re going to battle. However, we can’t dig ourselves that hole and expect consistently to get out of it.”"

Atlanta left too many points on the board and beat themselves against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers deserve credit, they went on the road to a divisional opponent and took advantage when the Falcons gave them opportunities. They scored after each turnover.

But the Falcons looked as if they were trying to give Jameis Winston the victory.

Bouncing back

So how do the Falcons fix the offensive funk?

Unfortunately, I just went out back and shook the veteran wide receiver tree, and there was nothing. While you can never rule out the possibility of a trade—and Alshon Jeffery seems to be the popular choice—it seems unlikely a move will be made.

It would appear the Falcons are going to roll with what they have in Hankerson and White, and hope rookie Justin Hardy can contribute. We’ll see.

What has to change is the number of turnovers. It’s got to the point where I actually expect the Falcons to turn it over when they get down in the red zone. Stalled drives in opposition territory is one thing, but at least you can pick up three points in such a situation.

The Falcons have a strong core on offense that should be much more efficient than it has been in recent weeks. By limiting the turnovers and getting some more production from receivers not named Julio Jones, the unit can get back on track.