An offense that has produced bunches of points and a bevy of yards is starting to look more dangerous than ever
As quarterback Matt Ryan takes a knee at the Saints 7-yard line to put a seal on the Falcons impressive Monday night victory to improve to 2-1 this season, two things initially crossed my mind:
- Why not go for a 50-burger when that close?
- This offense looks remarkably good
Ok, maybe the idea of cracking 50 points was a little extreme but that is a different topic for a different day. To focus on the second thought that entered my brain, it is interesting to say the least that this could be the best offense during the Matt Ryan era in Atlanta.
That’s right. Better than the 2012 Falcons which won 13 games, led by Ryan, a Julio Jones who posted 79 receptions and a career-high 10 touchdowns, Roddy White who so happened to post his last 1,000 yard season that year (92/1,351/7), and a Hall-of-Fame caliber tight end in Tony Gonzalez who poured in 93 catches and nine touchdowns.
Better than the 2011 Falcons which saw Michael Turner churn out 1,340 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns along with a fresh rookie receiver from the University of Alabama in Jones.
Even better than the 2008 edition of the Falcons that surprisingly won 10 games with a rookie Matt Ryan and scrapped their way to a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.
This version of the Falcons offense looks….different.
Why? For starters, the amount of depth that the team not only has but utilizes is excellent in it’s own right. Probably my favorite stat of the offense so far, Ryan has connected with at least seven receivers in each of the three games played this season, including nine receivers in the week two victory over the Oakland Raiders.
In week three of the 2015 season, Julio Jones received 20 targets in the team’s comeback victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Twenty.
So far, three games into the 2016 season, Jones has received exactly 20 targets on the season. Some may look at it as a knock on Jones but in actuality, the team hasn’t encountered the need to rely heavily on their All-Pro receiver. At this juncture in 2015, Jones had already accumulated 46 targets as he was well on his way to leading the league in targets with 203.
A tip of the cap goes to Ryan for properly utilizing his weapons as well as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for realizing what he has and using it to their advantage. The offseason addition of former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu has been ok so far. He has added 11 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown on the season and looks to be an important piece moving forward.
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The talk of the offense outside of the play of Ryan has been the emergence of a young and skilled running back duo. Third-year back Devonta Freeman already established himself last season with 1,634 yards from scrimmage, 14 touchdowns, and a Pro Bowl berth in his first year as a starter. He has picked up where he left off with a solid start to this season as well. Sprinkle in the versatility and speed that second-year back Tevin Coleman has brought this season, and you have two backs to truly game plan for every Sunday.
Small personnel moves such as adding veterans receivers Aldrick Robinson and Taylor Gabriel along with second-year receiver Justin Hardy earning a starting spot in the slot, plus the wily veteran at tight end in Jacob Tamme, who so happens to lead the team in catches I might add, along with a rookie in Austin Hooper, who had three catches for 84 yards in that week two win over the Raiders, and their are weapons literally everywhere for this offense. Enough to keep you awake at night as a defensive coordinator.
The offensive line has probably been the unsung heroes in this young 2016 season. Adding a veteran in Alex Mack has paid dividends in the run game, passing department, as well as an established veteran in the locker room. The bookend tackles, Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder, have also played up to their expectations this season
First in the league in points per game, yards per game, and yards per play, fourth in passing, third in rushing, fifth in first downs per game, fourth in passing plays over 20 yards, second in passing plays over 40 yards, fifth in runs resulting in first downs. Ok that’s enough. You understand what I’m trying to say.
This offense is good. Really good. Especially with what the team endured last season with the lack of cohesion and some locker room turbulence, it’s a welcoming sight to see the puzzle finally piecing itself together. It’s only three weeks into the season, but the offense so far has played lights out. A team known for creating offensive fireworks may be on it’s way to putting on a season-long show.