by Bobby Holloway III
The job of a coach is to get the most out of their players, especially in the sport of football and in the NFL. That means capitalizing on strengths and figuring out what their favorite things to do are, while also taking their weaknesses and hiding them as much as possible.
Rewind to last season.
Watching the Atlanta Falcons’ offense last season was painful, partly because offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan struggled to figure out the strengths of his players (namely QB Matt Ryan). Ryan was often overwhelmed in Shanahan’s system, and there was clearly a dearth of talent on the offensive line and at wide receiver (outside of Julio Jones).
Even with the talented Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, along with an emerging Devonta Freeman, the Falcons only scored over 30 points twice the entire season (against Dallas and Houston). Atlanta finished last season seventh in total offense, sixth in passing, 19th in rushing and 15th in scoring offense—needless to say, the Falcons were very inconsistent. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with a history of improvement under Shanahan in his previous stops in Washington and Houston.
History shows, in his second season with a team, Shanahan and his players are able to dramatically decrease turning the ball over, in addition to a slight increase in red-zone touchdowns. That means Ryan needs to show better decision making, and the skill players need to have better ball security. If that happens, the Falcons offense could be a sight to see.
The Falcons had a minus seven turnover margin in 2015, with Ryan committing 21 turnovers (16 interceptions and five fumbles lost), including an alarming six INT’s in the red zone—second to Eli Manning of the New York Giants (eight). With a season in this system under their belts, the Falcons—especially Ryan—should be more comfortable with the concepts and schemes taught by Shanahan.
The Falcons should be better offensively from a talent perspective with the additions of center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, as well as the continued development of tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. Rookie tight end Austin Hooper is expected to be an added weapon in the red zone.
History needs to be on the Falcons’ side this season, because this team can’t afford to kick field goals against the likes of Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, the Denver Broncos defense, Drew Brees (twice), an emerging Jameis Winston (twice) and finally, the reigning league MVP in Cam Newton (twice) and expect to win. The defense will have their hands full facing those quarterbacks, so the offense can’t afford to have an off-game.
Let’s hope this promising history continues in Atlanta. If not, then Kyle Shanahan might be adding another travel sticker to his suitcase.
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