Prediction: Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian will succeed in year two.
The Atlanta Falcons exceeded expectations in the 2017 season after experiencing a rocky 4-4 start to the season.
They finished 10-6 but fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. Many fans in Atlanta blamed the team’s offensive miscues on Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian was criticized for not utilizing Wide Receiver Julio Jones enough in the red zone as he only had three total touchdowns.
Despite this career-low, he still accumulated 88 receptions for 1,444 yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Sarkisian also faced heat for the Falcons’ last possession of the season in Philadelphia. Running Back Tevin Coleman was on fire in the second half of the game and was not handed the ball even once when Atlanta reached Philadelphia’s 2-yard line in an effort to possibly win the game.
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The drive soon ended on an incompletion by Quarterback Matt Ryan to Julio Jones.
The inability to run down the clock and utilize the running game plagued Atlanta, just as it did in last year’s Super Bowl.
Heading into 2018, Sarkisian will have had the proper experience and adjustments with the Falcons’ offense after going through the growing pains in his first year with no NFL experience.
In year one, he was coming into the NFL in which he was accustomed to running college-like plays since he had tentures with Washington, USC, and Alabama.
The Falcons for the most part, were unable to execute on the deep ball as they did in 2016.
As part of this inconsistency, Wide Receiver Taylor Gabriel was not integrated in the offense the same way he was the year before. He used to be a deep-ball threat but his absence in 2017 contributed to the miscues of Atlanta when attempting to execute on the deep ball.
It is unknown if Gabriel will be able to rebound with the Falcons though as he is a free agent next month. Should he still be in a Falcons uniform in 2018, Sarkisian must integreate efficient targets such as Gabriel into the offense so Ryan can continue to spread the ball amongst different receivers.
This was a key piece of the Falcons’ success in 2016.
In 2015, Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator at the time and after Atlanta finished 8-8 after a 5-0 start, the city wanted him gone. Come 2016, he made the proper adjustments to turn the Falcons’ offense into an offensive juggernaut. Sarkisian can also have the same success after a down year.
The Falcons dropped their points per game total from 34 to 21 in 2017 but that comes from a coordinator having to make quick adjustments coming from the college level.
Sarkisian will adjust to the personnel on the Falcons’ coaching staff throughout the spring and summer and may even benefit in helping Matt Ryan bounce back from a down year as Atlanta acquired former team offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp as their new quarterbacks coach.
Should Atlanta do well in finding a solid third option at wide receiver, addressing the offensive line and possibly signing Seahawks Tight End Jimmy Graham, Steve Sarkisian may revert the Falcons’ offense as a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.
It seems as though Sarkisian is already on the hot seat by Falcons fans coming into his second year.
Yes, expectations will now be high as ever almost two seaons after a Super Bowl appearance but as shown with Kyle Shanahan’s tenure in Atlanta, greatness isn’t defined in a short period of time.
Sarkisian will be more motivated than ever to have Atlanta’s offense taking over the NFL again, especially with the city of Atlanta hosting Super Bowl 53.