FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons' offense doesn't look much different than the group that set the NFL ablaze in 2016, which is perhaps why running back Devonta Freeman is bullish on the unit's potential this fall.
"We've got so many weapons," Freeman said after Monday's practice. "I think we've got a really, really scary offense. When we're clicking and all of us are on the same page, I think we can do some really great things."
Atlanta has both talent and depth at nearly every skill position on offense, and its offensive line returns every starter from last season and added an 80-game veteran in Brandon Fusco this offseason. Possibly the biggest addition came on Day 1 of the NFL Draft when the Falcons drafted wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who was considered by some draft experts as the top receiver in the class.
The biggest difference from 2017 to 2018, however, is the experience and familiarity offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian now has with his players. Sarkisian compared his feeling entering this season as opposed to last year as "night and day" this offseason, and understanding his player's skillsets will help him put them in the best position to succeed.
"I think all of those things just puts me at a much different level of comfort, where you just feel good every day walking in like, 'OK, this is what we're going to work on today because I think we can get better at it. And if we really want to run this play, X player needs to run this play, not this player because X player runs it better,'" Sarkisian said. "And that goes a long, long way when you think about it."
Although the Falcons' 2017 offense didn't perform at the stratospheric levels of 2016, it certainly wasn't a major hindrance. Atlanta was eighth in yards per game, averaging 364.8 yards, and 15th in points per game, scoring 22.1 points on average.
More importantly, the team became the only NFC squad to return to the postseason in 2017, and they gave the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles their toughest game of the playoffs.
"Look what we did last year," Freeman said. "We went pretty far coming off the Super Bowl. We accomplished a lot of things last year, we just didn't finish. We understand now what we've got to do and where we're going and what we're aiming for."