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What If: Julio Jones

What if Julio Jones were to fall to injury?

The Falcons had the best offense in football last year. Matt Ryan won the Offensive MVP and Atlanta probably should have won the Super Bowl. Atlanta’s offense scored on over 55% of their drives and only turned the ball over 11 times. They punted just 48 times in the regular season, while scoring 58 touchdowns in 2016. This was a historically great offense.

Falcons’ fans, this is not going to keep up. First of all, the league’s premier offensive coordinator and play-caller, Kyle Shanahan, has left town to take on the monumental task of rebuilding the 49ers. Secondly, Atlanta more or less had zero injuries to their offensive line. As detailed in my Offensive Lines Going Backward, the Falcons are unlikely to be as strong upfront as they were in 2016. And while Ryan is most likely closer to the 2016 version rather than the struggling 2105 version that was new to Shanahan’s scheme, chances are that last year will be the best season of his career…which is nothing to sneeze at.

Now, while the Falcons are likely to regress on this side of the ball to some degree, that isn’t to imply that this will not be a high quality unit or that there isn’t an awful lot of fantasy points to mine from Atlanta’s offense. Austin Hooper is very much a breakout candidate and the Falcons are rightfully very pleased with their backfield of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Hopefully new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, still keeps Atlanta’s outside zone blocking scheme as the foundation of the offense and continues to utilize play action a great deal off a lethal running game. Hopefully Sarkisian also continues to employ Freeman and Coleman as receiving threats very much as Shanahan did before him. Although, with all respect to Sarkisian, who has very little experience in the NFL, chances are that Shanahan is simply better at creating mismatches for Atlanta’s running backs as well as play calling and scheming overall.

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