After the Falcons hired new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, Scott, Tori and Ashton discussed what they believed to be the Falcons most pressing defensive need.
They talked about pass rush and secondary depth then. Now, two weeks later, they're switching gears to answer the same question for the offense: What is this unit's most pressing need in 2023?
Tori: The good thing about being the one to put Question of the Week together is that I get to answer first. Therefore, I'm taking the quarterback off the board (insert evil laugh here).
The Falcons most pressing offensive needs hinges on the decision they make at quarterback. It's a decision that affects where this position goes in 2023 and beyond.
Right now, Desmond Ridder has not been named QB1 for the upcoming season. That doesn't mean he won't be when said season's start can be seen upon the horizon. However, the Falcons are going to do their due diligence in filling out the quarterback room how they see fit to do so. And that could mean a number of things. It could mean signing a veteran quarterback. It could mean drafting a young one. No matter how you look at it, though, a priority (a need, if you will) is filling out the quarterback room around Ridder and deciding once you do who gets the nod.
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How that ultimately looks is anyone's guess at this point. We have free agency, trades and a draft to sit through before (I believe) we'll have a clearer picture of which way the Falcons are leaning in regards to their quarterback decision.
Personally, I think the Falcons have something intriguing in Ridder. I'd like to see what he can do as the starter from Day 1 of the regular season, at least. We saw him make obvious improvements from his first start in 2022 to his fourth, and that was after not playing in a true live game setting for months on end. It was after running the scout team for the majority of the 2022 season. Let's see what he can do under different circumstances.
I'd also like to see how Kyle Pitts' role changes with Ridder at the helm. Drake London's production increased with Ridder as the quarterback, could the same happen for Pitts when he returns to full strength? I'd personally like to know the answer to that question.
But I can only speak on my opinion right now since there has been no movement from the Falcons one way or another regarding what they are planning to do at quarterback. No matter how you look at it, though, figuring out the future of the quarterback position is a top priority in 2023, if not the top priority.
Ashton: Outside of the quarterback position, refining the wide receivers unit is definitely a pressing need for this offense.
The Falcons need more playmakers at that position if we're being honest. Drake London was pretty much the only threat throughout the season, which is easy for any secondary to sniff out. The Falcons had the second-lowest amount of receiving yards in 2022 with 2,927 and no player eclipsed over 1,000 yards.
I thought Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge and Damiere Byrd all played their roles but I thought the production ultimately lacked. There are some quality receivers hitting the market this offseason like D.J. Chark, Jarvis Landry and JuJu Smith-Schuster that the Falcons could potentially target. And then you have the draft which is another route for the Falcons to take.
Relying heavily on the rushing attack won't sustain throughout the season. You need guys on the outside that can make a play down the stretch in crunch time, and simply, contribute more efficient production overall. There wasn't enough of that in 2022.
Obviously, there's still uncertainty on who will be QB1 at the start of the 2023 season, but besides the fact, acquiring more depth in the receivers room is a must. The amount of cap space Atlanta will have at the start of the league surely helps. It'll be interesting to see how the Falcons ultimately fill this unit out.
Scott: So I got to the Question of the Week file last and all the top choices were already taken. Dang it.
I'll have to step outside the box a bit here and go with a position you might not be thinking about.
The Falcons simply must address that position. And, yes, I can already see hands raised, ready to bring up Kaleb McGary following a career year. But the 2019 first-round pick's contract is set to expire in a few weeks. Then they'll have a vacancy along the offensive line.
They can address it several ways, through free agency or the draft or, you know, re-signing McGary. That's the option I'd go with. McGary's an excellent fit for the offensive line and works extremely well with right guard Chris Lindstrom. He's a mauler, a road grader in the run game and a much better pass protector than he was. Lindstrom says that's due to confidence and familiarity with the system. Then I say let him continue to grow and work well within it.
One hangup: right tackles don't come cheap. Not anymore. The Falcons and McGary will have to find a fair pact for both sides, knowing Lindstrom must get extended and the Falcons have other pressing needs. I think the franchise tag ($18.2 million) is pretty steep. The transition tag ($16.6 million) is, too. There has to be an acceptable number for everyone here, right?
If one can't be found, the right tackle becomes as big of a need as any on the team. One that might require a first-round pick (Paris Johnson or Peter Skoronski, anyone?) or a Day 2 selection. That sounds better than picking up a cheaper tackle who isn't quite as good as McGary, especially when the offensive line is the foundational tone setter for the entire team.
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos on offense from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.