Three young Falcons that have to step up in 2020


If the Atlanta Falcons are going to get back to the playoffs in 2020, they are going to need several of their young players to make incredible leaps in year two.

The Atlanta Falcons have a decent mixture of age on the roster, but they are going to rely on many of the younger players moving forward to help them get back to the NFL postseason. We all know veterans like Alex Mack, Julio Jones, and Matt Ryan are going to show up every week. We also know that younger savvy guys like Deion Jones and Calvin Ridley are going to battle every single week and win their matchups.

However, there are several young guys that showed a lot of promise in 2019 that need to be more consistent and take a big step forward in their leadership, maturity, and ability on the field.

Young guys like Chris Lindstrom, Russell Gage, and Brian Hill will be important to the Atlanta Falcons success in 2020, but they were among the most consistent performers at the end of the season and will hopefully carry that into the summer and the 2020 NFL season.

Here are three young Atlanta Falcons that have to take their game to the next level and play more consistently in 2020.

Kaleb McGary

Kaleb McGary had a lot of pressure on him in 2019 because the Falcons traded back into the first round to draft him out of Washington. Through the entire summer workout schedule and preseason, he had his fellow first-round pick in Chris Lindstrom working with him.

Not only did McGary have to face some of the best pass rushers in the NFL as a rookie, but he also had to do a lot of it without Lindstrom, who he clearly had great chemistry with; fans seem to ignore how important chemistry on the offensive line it.

During his rookie year, McGary displayed qualities that you would see out of a first-round pick but also had problems playing consistently. In year two, he is going to have to solidify himself at right tackle and protect Matt Ryan at all costs.

Kendall Sheffield

Like Kaleb McGary, Kendall Sheffield ended up getting loads of playing time as a rookie. However, he was thrown into action because of injuries.

There wasn’t a lot to complain about in regards to his play as he was pretty good as a rookie. There are some important nuances that he has to learn if he is going to take the next and work toward being that high-level corner that the Atlanta Falcons need, but he showed flashes that he can be that guy.

He has the speed and ball skills to keep up with NFC South receivers like Michael Thomas and Mike Evans. Year two should be a year that he builds on what he learned as a rookie and a guy that the Falcons can lean on defensively.

Jaeden Graham

Things just don’t sound like the Falcons are going to bring back Austin Hooper. The fan base is split on this well. In the last couple weeks, I have written about why they would be dumb to let him walk but the more I thought about keeping, the more it just makes sense to let him walk at $10 million a season as a probable asking price.

If Hooper does in fact leave, Jaeden Graham is going to have to be the one to pick up the slack. In the three games that Hooper missed in 2019, Graham came up big with 7 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown on eight targets.

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Graham has displayed the ability to make plays in the passing game and that will be needed in 2020 to make sure the offense keeps that option to keep defenses guessing.