ORLANDO, Fla. – The Atlanta Falcons have no lack of offensive firepower and are just two years removed from averaging 36 points per game.
Fans are hoping the Falcons' offense can move closer to that mark under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and Buccaneers Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans believes he is the right man for the job.
"He made us one of the top offenses in the league, so I think he'll do the same in Atlanta," Evans said during the first day of practice at the 2019 Pro Bowl. "He has the weapons. It will be a top-five offense, for sure."
That type of production is certainly something the Falcons are capable of. In 2018, Atlanta was sixth in yards per game, averaging 389.1 yards, and it was 10th in points per game with an average of 25.9. The year prior, the Falcons averaged 364.8 yards and 22.1 points per game, which was eighth- and 15th-most in the league, respectively.
But while the Falcons were brilliant at times under former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, they have the talent on hand to reach even greater heights.
The Falcons' offense produced three Pro Bowlers in 2018: Julio Jones, Alex Mack and Austin Hooper. Jones was the NFL's leading receiver, catching 113 passes for 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns. Mack has long been one of the top centers in the league and an anchor in the middle of Atlanta's offensive line. And in his third season, Hooper put up career-high numbers across the board, catching 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns.
TE Austin Hooper and C Alex Mack attend the first practice of the 2019 Pro Bowl. Mack is returning to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time, and it is Hooper's first Pro Bowl of his NFL career.
In addition to those three, the Falcons also have an MVP-caliber quarterback in Matt Ryan and two very talented receivers opposite of Jones in Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley.
Koetter's job will be maximizing that talent and getting consistent high-level production from the offense. Consistency was an issue for Atlanta last season, as evidenced by its five-game losing streak in which the offense failed to score more than 20 points.
"We had a disappointing year," Mack said. "We won some games towards the end and patched things together, which is ending on the note we wanted to. But we weren't playing good enough in the middle of the year early on."
There are some questions the Falcons will have to answer on the offensive side of the ball this offseason as well.
Coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will likely take a long look at the offensive line, which had a disappointing season and was hindered by injuries. Quinn recently said on his radio show that the only two offensive line spots he's "comfortable" with are left tackle Jake Matthews and Mack at center.
It also remains to be seen whether the Falcons move to retain running back Tevin Coleman, who is set to become a free agent, and how fellow running back Devonta Freeman recovers from an injury that cost him much of the 2018 season.
But there is still much for Koetter, who previously served as the Falcons' offensive coordinator from 2012-14, to work with in Atlanta. Evans knows first-hand what type of offense Falcons fans should expect with Koetter in charge.
"An explosive offense," Evans said. "He was explosive before he left [Atlanta], and then he came to us and made us way more explosive than we were … He's going to have that receiving corps nice, and the run game."
Koetter's offenses have been plenty explosive. The Buccaneers were second in the league with 71 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2018, and their 14 passes that went for 40 yards or more were fourth-most. During his three seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons averaged 5.7 yards per play and 363.5 yards per game.
Now back with the Falcons, Koetter is charged with getting a talented unit to play up to its capabilities on a consistent basis.
"I'm looking forward to working with him," Mack said. "We've got a lot of real talented people in the building. I think we should have an explosive offense, and I'm looking forward to figuring out how we're going to do it."