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.
Keanu Neal – B-
Ricardo Allen – C
Damontae Kazee – C
Jaylinn Hawkins – C-
Sharrod Neasman – D
For the first time since 2017, Keanu Neal completed a full season. While he looked rusty early on, he slowly grew back into his role, delivering more than a handful trademark hammer blows along the way. He even managed to register a pick, though he was covering Patrick Mahomes at the time. If the team can find a way to bring him back in 2021, I would certainly endorse the move. Neal looks capable of playing at a very high level for a good few years yet, despite his previous injuries.
Ricardo Allen has been vaunted for his in game intelligence, and that showed again in 2020. The longtime captain showed himself capable of organising his defense, though his own physical shortcomings led to the Falcons giving up both chunks of yards, and scores. Despite having been contracted through 2021, Allen was ultimately named as a cap casualty. We shall see whether he rebounds, or calls it a day, but we wish him the best, nevertheless.
Spare a thought for Damontae Kazee, who suffered an early season-ended injury in the final year of his rookie contract. Kazee managed 4 games before tearing his achilles tendon, and, as his body of work shows, he looked set to take up the role likely to be vacated by Allen. It’s a shame, because Kazee has been good in Atlanta. I fear we’ve seen the last of him as a Falcon, however.
Jaylinn Hawkins didn’t do anything wrong in his rookie season, per se, but he didn’t necessarily flash, either. When he got on the field, he looked pretty ok, and that’s something. The back end of the Falcons secondary is thin heading into 2021, so I guess we are relying on him being good enough! Sharrod Neasman was limited in his opportunities, but underwhelming when given them. One recalls the week four defeat to the Green Bay Packers as evidence that Neasman isn’t suited to starting snaps. Out of contract in 2021, it’s unlikely he returns.