Thu, 30 Jun 2022

2022 Opponent Breakdown: Atlanta Falcons

Los Angeles Rams
19 May 2022, 18:24 GMT+10

Stu Jackson

Continuing our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2021 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 2 home opponent, the Atlanta Falcons (Sept. 18, 1:05 p.m. PT on FOX). TICKETS | SUITES

2021

The Falcons struggled to find any consistency last season, failing to mount a single win streak as 1-2 losses followed each victory. Ultimately, it led to a 7-10 finish which secured Atlanta the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Changes

There were many.

First, they lost top wide receiver Calvin Ridley to an indefinite suspension - it will last through at least the conclusion of the 2022 season - for betting on NFL games.

Then they explored a trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson - who eventually got dealt to the Browns - and seemingly burned bridges with longtime starter Matt Ryan in the process, as Ryan subsequently requested a trade and was dealt to the Colts. The Falcons later signed veteran Marcus Mariota as their new starter, but also drafted University of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round of this year's draft.

At one point this offseason, Atlanta had just four wide receivers on its roster, but has since addressed that need by drafting USC wide receiver Drake London with the No. 8 pick and later acquiring Bryan Edwards in a trade with the Raiders. On Monday, they signed former Packers and Lions wide receiver Geronimo Allison.

They also let outside linebacker Dante Fowler and tight end Hayden Hurst walk in free agency, among 11 total players who signed with other teams, but did sign veteran cornerback Casey Hayward to a two-year deal.

Head coach

Arthur Smith enters his second season as head coach of the Falcons.

What to watch for

Rams defense vs. whoever starts at quarterback for the Falcons, plus Falcons' pass-catchers

As laid out above, the Falcons found a short-term solution at quarterback in Mariota (they signed him to a two-year deal) while also keeping an eye toward the future with the selection of Ridder.

This year's quarterback draft class had just one player taken in the first round in Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett. Traditionally, a quarterback going in the first round will play sooner than later, so the fact that many of them went in Round 3 or later suggests they will take more time to develop.

Thus, it's likely Mariota will be under center in Week 2 when Atlanta visits SoFi Stadium.

Meanwhile, with the exception of tight end Kyle Pitts (pictured near the top), the aforementioned attrition at wide receiver has led to some turnover among the targets in the passing game. Besides Ridley, they also lost second-leading receiver Russell Gage - who signed with the Bucs - but did bring back fourth-leading receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

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