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Question of the Week: What is the biggest takeaway from the Falcons offseason?

The Falcons officially wrapped up their offseason program Wednesday and now break before training camp in late July.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Two months, one week and two days have passed since the Atlanta Falcons returned to the facility and began their 2024 offseason program. Wednesday marks the official conclusion.

Since that April 2 start day, the Falcons have welcomed returning staff and players, along with a slew of new coaches, signings and rookies. That list includes, but is certainly not limited to, the likes of head coach Raheem Morris, veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Bijan Robinson, starting safety Jessie Bates III and eight draft picks.

Now, as the Falcons take a break before returning in late July for training camp, there are multiple storylines to consider in the downtime.

That prompts the latest Question of the Week: What is the biggest takeaway from the Falcons' offseason? The editorial staff of Tori McElhaney, Will McFadden, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan answer.


McELHANEY: I started covering the Falcons in 2020. I say this because for every single year that has followed, the only thing I fear I spoke about involved the quarterback. It began with Matt Ryan: How long would he be in a Falcons uniform? What would a succession plan look like when he no longer is? It moved on to Marcus Mariota: Could he bridge the gap between the Ryan era in Atlanta to whatever came next? What is next? Then, we arrived at Desmond Ridder: Would he, in fact, be next?

Well, here we sit four years later and the path to this point has been ripe with quarterback pitfalls. The Falcons sent Ryan to Indianapolis. Neither Mariota nor Ridder panned out. The Falcons found themselves in quarterback purgatory in the years between. They hope those days are behind them. And if I am being honest, it feels that way.

Outside of the breaking news aspect of the Falcons signing Kirk Cousins, drafting Michael Penix and retaining Taylor Heinicke, the amount of time I have spent actively talking about the quarterback position has been – surprisingly – limited. And I tend to think that is because the moves made to firm up this position group did exactly what the Falcons originally hoped it would.

The goal in making these moves in the last couple months was to assure the Falcons quarterback room was set, not just for the short-term but in the long-term. Having watched Cousins operate, Penix learn and Heinicke fill in when needed, it really has started to feel that way.

McFADDEN: It's completely understandable why quarterback was the highest priority for the organization this offseason. After all, no position has a greater impact in all of sports. However, the Falcons' pursuit of Kirk Cousins and subsequent decision to draft Michael Penix Jr. has left the Falcons without a proven top-tier pass rusher.

That's not an issue that necessarily dooms the Falcons this fall. I'd much rather have a question mark at pass rush than quarterback, but it does mean Atlanta will once again need players to step up. The team's 42 sacks in 2023 were the most produced by a Falcons defense since the 2004 season, which should be viewed as a positive. However, three key pieces from last year are gone: Ryan Nielsen, Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree – the latter two of which combined for 13 sacks.

I like the triple-draft-dip of Ruke Orhorhoro, Bralen Trice and Brandon Dorlus, but they are likely rotation players in their first year. Expect a nice dose of simulated pressures from defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake as a way to utilize players like Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen to help Lorenzo Carter and Arnold Ebiketie, among others.

WAACK: There are so many different ways I could go with this. Honestly, I hadn't settled on an idea until Tuesday afternoon, after defensive tackle Grady Jarrett addressed the media for the first time this offseason. Because wow, he impressed me with his candidness toward his injury-rehab experience. Especially since it was really the first of his career.

Jarrett spoke for 22 minutes, answering 11 questions. Each response was raw and honest.

The 31-year-old went into detail about what happened in that Week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans when he tore his ACL and the emotions he felt when an MRI confirmed the severity of his injury the following day. He also shared the difficulties that followed his surgery, such as requiring help simply to use the bathroom or get in and out of a car. He even explained the new perspectives he gained in life, both on and off the field.

My favorite moment was as follows:

"I got a new appreciation for what it takes to be a mom," Jarrett said. "Because boy, when I got all that time with my son, sometimes you think, 'Oh, I can just hang with the kid. He's just going to sit there.' Man, this boy is a handful all the time."

And that transitioned into Jarrett comparing himself to those who are redoing his backyard. Their project and his recovery timeline began at the same time seven months ago.

"I'm like, 'Dang, they've been working just as hard as me every day,'" Jarrett said. "So, the work people put in day-in and day-out — life is hard. Everybody works hard. If I had to choose a hard, I'm blessed that football is my hard. I can't take that for granted. I don't."

It's that self-awareness that won me over and convinced me that Jarrett will be ready come Sept. 8 for Week 1 of the 2024 season. I immediately wrote about Jarrett's press conference — and you can read that full story here — but I wasn't quite done processing and recognizing all that he said. Thus, my Question of the Week answer gave me a chance to expand on it.

Year 10 should be special for No. 97.

SUBHAN: At the start of the new league year in March, Drake London was simply the lone wolf wide receiver. Since then, the Falcons have added immense depth to the position group, including a formidable running mate for London in Darnell Mooney.

When I look at the wide receivers in the room, a motto comes to mind that — oddly enough — Falcons defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake often preaches: fast, free and physical. This group has guys like Mooney, who is a deep down-the-field receiver. With London's 6-foot-4 frame, he'll be one to provide a physical game. And most of all, given the number of options, they'll all be freer.

Last season, the group accounted for the lowest Falcons receiver output in more than 15 years. That's going to look very different this season under new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson. It's clear that Robinson and company's vision was to go out and get a plethora of talented weapons that would fit his scheme. Half of the free agent signings in the first week after they secured quarterback Kirk Cousins were receivers.

Now, we've gotten a glimpse of what it looks like through offseason practices, and that has been fun to watch. I'm excited to see it come to life further when we get back for training camp and into Week 1. That excitement is also palpable from the guys in the group.

"As we keep on growing as a unit and we get on the field and showcase what we can do," London said, "I think it's going to be a really, really tight-knit type of group. I'm excited for that to come."

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