The Atlanta Falcons haven’t seemed to get over their embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. Of course, they led the game 28-3 at one point in the second half, only to be turned into an endless meme.
No one has forgotten that loss by Matt Ryan and company and it will always resonate until the Falcons avenge that loss. This season, Dan Quinn is focused on making it back to the postseason after missing them last year.
Everyone knows how talented the offense is with Ryan under center and Julio Jones out wide but their defense has taken a step back. In 2018, the Falcons ranked 28th in total defense. That can’t please Quinn and knows that they’ll need better play all-around in the upcoming season.
If Atlanta hopes to reach the playoffs in 2019, they’ll need a few players (especially on defense) to take a step forward. Here are three players who must take the next step for the Atlanta Falcons in 2019.
3. De’Vondre Campbell
Next to Deion Jones on the defense is De’Veondre Campbell. We all know how talented Jones is as a player but not many people know about Campbell.
Campbell was a fourth-round pick for the Falcons in the 2016 NFL Draft. From there, he has found himself thrust into a vital role in the defense.
Over his three-year career, Campbell has averaged 53 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, and one sack. Those numbers aren’t too shabby but he’ll need to improve further if the Falcons hope to reach their ultimate goal.
That ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl but every team has the same idea. Again, the offense has enough firepower to hang with any offense but the Falcons need their defense to get better this year. Furthermore, Campbell is among the players who will need to take the next step for Atlanta to improve.
2. Isaiah Oliver
With the departure of Robert Alford, there is a void in the Falcons secondary that will need to be filled. Currently, Isaiah Oliver seems like the most likely candidate to step into Alford’s former spot across from Desmond Trufant.
Trufant has been a mainstay for the Falcons defense but Oliver will be getting his first taste of being a full-time starter in the NFL. In 2018, Atlanta couldn’t stop the pass to save their lives, ranking 27th in the NFL.
Therefore, Oliver will immediately need to shine on defense to help the Falcons rise in the defensive ranks. Their secondary was abysmal in 2018 with injuries and inconsistent play. Oliver saw just two starts but managed to corral an interception and deflect seven passes in his rookie campaign last year.
The second-year cornerback will need to quickly ready himself to be relied upon in the secondary. If he does, the Falcons may find themselves in the playoffs once again.
1. Vic Beasley
What in the world has happened to Vic Beasley? It seems like just yesterday that fans and media alike were crowning him as one of the up and coming pass rushers in the league.
Fast forward to now and Beasley is fighting his way to sticking with the Falcons after the 2019 season. In 2016, Beasley burst onto the scene with 15.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles en route to his first Pro Bowl bid.
After that, the athletic pass rusher was plagued with hamstring issues throughout the 2017 season. As a result, he was limited to just five sacks, eight tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.
Falcons fans were ready for Beasley to make people quickly forget about his 2017 campaign in 2018 by reverting back to his 2016-form. Despite the optimism, that didn’t end up being the case with Beasley.
Instead, Beasley seemed like a shell of himself and vanished from the defense. Again, Beasley could only manage to tally five sacks and everyone began questioning what was going on with Atlanta’s premier edge rusher.
The 2019 season is going to be a vital one for the former first-round selection. Last season, the Falcons ranked 22nd in the NFL with just 37 sacks as a team. To accomplish their goal of making the playoffs, Beasley is going to need to return to being a core piece of the defense in 2019.