Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened, and why it's notable. Inside Tori's Notebook is sponsored by Microsoft Surface.
THE END (for now) -- Well, we made it. The end of the 2022 season has arrived. I want to say before we dive into anything that I'm so thankful to the loyal readers of this notebook. When I first began this writing exercise in 2019 I didn't know if it would catch on. I didn't know if people would actually enjoy reading any of my - often times - random and incongruent thoughts from a game, or the moments after it.
Consistently throughout this year, though, you have shown up and read this notebook. For that, I say: Thank you. This weekly series has been, and probably will continue to be, my favorite piece of reoccurring content I write. It'll return next season, don't you worry. Until that day comes, though, I want to leave you with one final thought that punctuated the final page in my 2022 notebook...
I'm optimistic about what is being built in Atlanta.
I'm going to be honest with you for a few paragraphs. In August, when I really sat down and looked at the Falcons 2022 schedule, I didn't see seven wins. I saw four, maybe five.
When I looked at this offense, I didn't know what it was. I didn't see Tyler Allgeier's emergence and I didn't take Atlanta for a productive run-first offense. I didn't see an identity. I questioned it. I didn't think that identity would be one that ultimately morphed into the overall concept of what it means to play physically, particularly at the line of scrimmage.
When I looked at this defense, I saw a liability because of the lack of playmakers. I didn't take this defense for one that would become a unit that didn't allow more than 21 points scored in any of their final six games.
I underestimated the 2022 Atlanta Falcons. They did more - and became more - than I thought they would be. Yes, the 7-10 record is what it is. I'm not excusing that. I'm also not excusing that the Falcons should have won more games. You look at every game they lost and outside of their Week 7 trip to Cincinnati, they were not without their chances to win almost every one.
This is also not excusing the major issues this team needs to fix. The offense needs to become more explosive. They need to consistently score more than they did in 2022. The defense needs more fire power, particularly along the defensive line. They need to establish a pass rush, and that includes the defensive interior.
Even in these issues, though, there is optimism. Why? Because the Falcons have the means to fix said issues. For the last two years, they've had to apply a bandaid to a wound that should require stitches. They couldn't afford a trip to the doctor to get them. Now, with close to $70 million in projected cap space in 2023, they do.
They also have the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft, plus a load of other picks, too.
The Falcons should be active players in almost every avenue this offseason. They can re-sign young talent, like Chris Lindstrom and A.J. Terrell. They can draft a new crop of impact players. They can be movers and shakers in free agency, and not just by way of signing mid-level veterans on one-year deals. And hey, no one should count them out on the trade market, either.
The last two years of conservative moves have led the Falcons to this offseason. It's one that will usher in a more concrete view of what Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith are actively building in Atlanta.
Let's not forget they have a solid foundation to build on top of, too. With the likes of Allgeier, Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen... and even Desmond Ridder, the Falcons have found value in their young playmakers. They are the foundation in Atlanta right now, and it's a foundation worth building upon.
So, yes. I am optimistic about what the Falcons can do in 2023 and 2024.
I think you can be, too.
View of the Falcons from the heights of Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the Sunday afternoon match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Game 18.