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A question about spacing, an issue resolved for 2024 Falcons? 

Speaking with the media this offseason, Falcons receiver Darnell Mooney zeroed in on an aspect of Zac Robinson's scheme he likes. It's an aspect some could argue wasn't consistently there for Atlanta in 2023. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It didn't take very long into the 2023 season for the word "spacing" to come up.

Directly following the Falcons' Week 1 win against the Carolina Panthers, then-head coach Arthur Smith took note of it, and not necessarily in the way you'd want.

Desmond Ridder was sacked four times in that game, and while Smith did note it was a number that lends itself to showing issues in pass protection, he believed it actually depicted issues in spacing.

"We can all be better in our spacing, and targets are the most misunderstood thing in the National Football League. There's progressions, there's spacing, if somebody underneath is not right, that's the stuff where I'm a little irritated as a coach," Smith said after the Week 1 game. "We had to fix it at halftime. That's on me. That's on everybody."

Spacing became a catch-all callback for some of the Falcons' struggles in the pass game last season. For simplicity's sake, more often than not, the Falcons passing attack was congested. At times there were too many guys in the same area of the field. Other times, not enough.

As the season wore on, Smith wasn't the only one who made note of spacing issues. On the road or at home, this idea of needing to be better in spacing came up in many post-game locker room sessions.

By October, some opponents recognized the Falcons' issues through the air, explaining that it limited what they could do from an offensive standpoint — or even would try to do.

"They got wide receivers if they use them," safety Jimmie Ward said prior to the Falcons facing the Texans in Week 5. "... I don't think they're trying to pass the ball."

"I'm a strong believer that if you want to throw the football, I don't care if you have two receivers, three receivers, four receivers, five receivers: They have to be spread out, or if they start tight, they're going to have to flair out," Mathis said. "I've seen so many times where receivers were in the same spot over and over and over again.

"And when that happens, the window is tighter for a quarterback to see."

But all of this is the past.

So, let's fast forward almost a year to the present and what this idea of spacing means now. Spoiler alert: It's changed.


And a lot has changed, in fact, over the last six months. New scheme. New quarterback. A crop of new receivers.

However, what's incredibly interesting is that, again, it didn't take long for the term "spacing" to be thrown out in an interview setting. This time, though, the context was wildly different than what it was at different points last year.

Darnell Mooney didn't know about the Falcons' spacing issues in 2023. Those issues? They're irrelevant to him. He wasn't in Atlanta last year, and neither was current offensive play-caller Zac Robinson. However, when he spoke about spacing in one of his final media availabilities of the offseason, he brought the idea full circle.

In Robinson's scheme, spacing is something Mooney praised, unprompted.

"I love the spacing of everybody," Mooney said. "Nobody's ever running into each other. There's nothing crowded. It's Kirk (Cousins) throwing the ball to a wide-open person. There's just one person there, not like three or four people in the same spot."

This may be a simple, maybe even throw-away, comment to most, but not to the Falcons as they work to evolve their passing attack and its production in 2024 with a revamped group of individuals leading the charge.

Not to beat a dead horse, as sayings go, but there were significant points last year when this comment wouldn't have been made. Now, it's an area of confidence, especially considering the fact that Robinson said last month the Falcons have "the bulk" of the offense already installed. Obviously, it's always going to be evolving, he said, but when he had a chance to take a step back prior to the start of mandatory minicamp he felt that everything between the run and pass game was meshing together well. That includes the spacing of route concepts and receivers' roles in them.

We still have a ways to go to truly test this thought of improvements in spacing. Regardless, perhaps this single comment from Mooney may resonate clearly when football is back and we notice something right away about this Falcons offense.

"We're throwing the ball," Mooney concluded. "We're getting the ball in the air."

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