2020, from start to finish, wasn’t the year any of us wanted. In purely NFL terms, the Atlanta Falcons had as poor a year as they’ve had in recent history. The players fell flat on their face immediately after leaving the starting gate, the long time General Manager and Head Coach duo were unceremoniously moved on mid-season, and the team ended the season with their highest draft pick since 2008. It was a mess.
With the season over, it’s time to dissect that mess. As we face an uncertain new future, let’s take one last look back at the season, so see if there’s anything positive we can take into the new regime. So, join me as we sift through the awful to, hopefully, find little nuggets of good.
Julio Jones – C-
Calvin Ridley – B+
Russell Gage Jr – B
Olamide Zaccheaus – C+
Christian Blake – C-
Laquon Treadwell – N/A
The Falcons entered 2020 with a formidable group of receivers, and that group, largely, lived up to their billing. Calbin Ridley exploded out the gate, with four games of over 100 receiving yards from the opening 5. His production never really slowed, either, only dipping below 50 receiving yards on two occasions over the year. Ridley ended 2020 with 1374 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Only 4 players in the league notched up more yards than he over the course of the season. It was the sort of season you can point to as a player “breaking out”. This is a very exciting platform for Ridley to start from in 2021.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for Julio Jones, who suffered his worst season since 2013. What needs to be said is that he was hounded by a hamstring injury that plagued him for a large portion of the season. When he was healthy, he was electric, topping over 100 yards in 3 games, and managing over 90 in 2 more. But he just wasn’t on the field a lot. Jones played a total of 9 games, and wasn’t healthy for a good number of those. We hope to see a better return in 2021, but it wasn’t a vintage year for one of the league’s best.
The continued emergence of Russell Gage Jr has been one of the few joys that can be taken from these Falcons over the past few years. Since the trading of Mohammed Sanu, Gage has blossomed as Ryan’s go-to guy on short down throws. Gage set a career best in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns (72, 786, 4), and even threw a touchdown pass of his own. Gage heads into the final year of his contract as a vital cog in the Falcons offensive machine, and it’s going to be interesting how Arthur Smith opts to use him moving forward.
Thanks, in no small part, to Julio Jones’ continued injury issues, Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake saw the field far more than they could have reasonably expected in 2020. The former, Zaccheaus, enjoyed the more fruitful season, hauling in 20 receptions from 32 targets for 275 yards and a touchdown. Blake, however, managed 141 yards from 13 receptions. Both players will be pleased with their production under extremely limited looks, and will hope a new regime will see their snap share increase.
Laquon Treadwell was activated from the team’s practice squad with 5 games to go, and ended the season with 49 yards from 6 receptions, and 2 touchdowns. He simply didn’t get enough of a look to make any sort of impression, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be back in 2021.