ATLANTA -- The Falcons are not in playoff contention. That is known. They've spent the last week coming to terms with that fact.
Whether they won or lost on Sunday afternoon when they faced the Arizona Cardinals held no bearing on what happens for the Falcons after the season ends next week. They did win, though, with a 20-19 score, thus snapping a four-game losing streak with a game-winning field goal from Younghoe Koo.
So, though this game's outcome doesn't change Atlanta's fate, A.J. Terrell said it was still good for something.
"We are out of the playoffs," Terrell said, "but everybody is building their resume."
Atlanta has one of the youngest teams in the league. Here are a few fast facts from our Nerdy Birds report that support this statement:
- Only 11 players on the 53-man roster were on the team prior to the 2021 season and only 10 have more than five years of experience.
- On the 53-man active roster, 90 percent of the players are under 30 years old and 50 percent are under the age of 27. Both of those numbers represent the fifth-highest marks in the NFL in terms of young players. Atlanta leads the NFL in rostered players under the age of 26 at 13.
- According to OverTheCap.com, the Falcons have the fifth-highest percentage of players on rookie contracts or with three or fewer years of experience (85 percent).
So, when Terrell says players are building a resume, that's exactly what they are doing. Because of the overall youth of this team - or as Nerdy Birds stated: A youth movement in Atlanta - these resume-building moments cannot (and should not) be overlooked.
Why? Because it's the foundation Atlanta has laid for the future they want to build.
This year's team had its issues. This rookie class had their growing pains. But even in all of that, they are still showing that they have a foundation worth building upon.
At this point in the season, with just one game left, we know what this 2022 team in Atlanta is. We do. We know what works for them and what doesn't. We know their deficiencies and what they need to prioritize in the offseason. We also know that the 2022 NFL Draft class provided this organization with a nice jolt to kickstart 2023 based on their production and growth in 2022.
With 47 yards on five catches on Sunday, Drake London passed Calvin Ridley for the second-most receptions by a rookie in team history. Tyler Allgeier - with a 95-yard day from scrimmage - became one of only four players in the franchise's history to surpass 1,000 scrimmage yards in his rookie season. He joins the likes of Williams Andrews, Kyle Pitts and Julio Jones. He's also one of three rookies to surpass that same mark this year, joining Dameon Pierce and Garrett Wilson.
Troy Andersen's role within the defense continues to grow and expand. Arnold Ebiketie is showing promise, too. Ted Monachino said this week that DeAngelo Malone has made a "quantum leap" in his play this year. And though their individual stats are not something to gawk at, they play a major role in a defense that hasn't given up more than 21 points in any of their last five games.
Then, there's Desmond Ridder, who's third start at quarterback and first at home showed a player who's as comfortable in the pocket as we've seen him. His passer rating and completion percentage continues to climb. He handled the Falcons game-winning drive well, completing all three of his passes in said drive, including a big third-and-long conversion to get the Falcons into the red zone. In this offense, which is one that relies on its run game, that's all that Arthur Smith is asking his quarterback to do.
These are resume-building moments for a rookie class that is going to be instrumental in deciding where this organization goes in the coming years.
That also includes players who are going to be a part of that future, too. The Terrells, the Kyle Pitts, the Chris Lindstroms of the world.
This team isn't close to being fully built yet. But they have one of the highest projected cap spaces in the league in 2023 as well as a young core of players that are worth building around. They may be out of playoff contention and there may be a lot of games this 2022 team wants back, but all of that can still be true. There is still a future worth building towards.
"We know that we can't be in the playoffs this year, but what we talked about is that we want to finish these last two games strong," Ridder said. "Finish it for something good for the future."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals during Week 17.