The first season of the post-Matt Ryan for the Atlanta Falcons went just as many expected it to be — another losing record and an absence anew from the NFL playoffs. The Falcons finished fourth in the NFC South with a 7-10 record but closed out the regular season with back-to-back victories over the Arizona Wildcats and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What awaits the Falcons in 2023 and whether they will make it to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2017 will largely depend on the improvements they would make in the following areas.

3. Upgrade the offensive line

Among the chief problems of the Falcons in the 2022 NFL season was pass protection. Granted that Atlanta did not have one of the best quarterback rooms in the league (and that’s putting it lightly), the Falcons will still find it difficult to have enough liftoff in 2023 if their offensive line remains the same. In the 2022 NFL campaign, the Falcons were 11th overall with 2.2 sacks allowed per game. That was good enough for 11th, but that could have easily been worse if the team resorted to having their quarterbacks drop back more.

Atlanta was second in the NFL with a 55.29 run play percentage, with the team opting for Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder to capitalize on their ability to make plays with their legs than with their arms more often than most NFL squads. When they do call for pass plays, Atlanta’s pass protection crumbled most of the time. In fact, the Falcons were 27th in the league with an 8.19 offensive sack rate. Before they look for better talent in free agency or draft to address their issues in pass protection, perhaps the Falcons might want to reconsider their stance on right tackle Kaleb McGary, whose fifth-year option was declined by the team in May of 2022. McGary had a solid 2022, but if he ultimately parts ways with Atlanta, it’s yet another screaming sign for the Falcons to fix their O-line.

2. Improve depth of secondary

From pass protection, we go to pass defense, which was another point of weakness of the Falcons in the 2022 NFL season. For the record, Atlanta ranked just 25th in the league with 231.9 passing yards allowed per game. The Falcons also only had a 1.78 defensive interception rate, which was good for only 25th overall. It did not help the Falcons’ secondary that Casey Hayward and AJ Terrell missed games due to injuries. But even if they were healthy all season long, it still would make lots of sense for Atlanta to upgrade their secondary by adding better talent behind the starters. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver played in only 12 games but he was among the standouts downfield for the Falcons’ defense.

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Among Texans cornerbacks, Oliver got the highest overall grade (77.9) from Pro Football Focus, but he’s about to hit free agency. Darren Hall, Cornell Armstrong, and Rashad Fenton were there too for Atlanta’s secondary in 2022, and they had moments, but had mediocre play most of the time, especially Armstrong and Fenton. Armstrong is also a looming free agent as well as Fenton. The Falcons can let those two go and use the draft to acquire studs with high ceilings and/or look for better options in the free-agent market.

1. Add better offensive talent downfield

No Falcons player had recorded 1,000 receiving yards in the 2022 NFL season, and the last one who accomplished that feat in Atlanta uniform missed a ton of games because of injury. That’s tight end Kyle Pitts, who appeared in only 10 games and recorded only 356 receiving yards. But even if he stayed healthy, he was still unlikely to reach 1,000 receiving yards for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Falcons ran the ball more, as mentioned earlier. Plus, there was not enough talent downfield to help stretch the field for him.

Drake London was a nice addition via the draft, with the rookie leading Atlanta right in his very first season in the pros with 866 receiving yards and four touchdowns, but there’s a big drop after him. Second on the team in receiving was Olamide Zaccheaus, who only had 533 receiving yards. After Zaccheaus, there’s another big gap before the No. 3 on the list, which is Pitts, and he missed nearly half the season.

KhaDarel Hodge was a pleasant figure downfield for Atlanta, so the Falcons might ultimately opt to re-sign him. In any case, the Falcons just don’t have enough depth in their receiving room at the moment to form a legitimate passing attack that opposing defenses would take much more seriously. London and Pitts can make a big leap next season as a 1-2 punch for the Falcons’ passing game which was second worst in 2022 with only 158.8 yards per game, but then again, where will Atlanta’s air attack go outside of those two?