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State of the 2024 Atlanta Falcons: All eyes on Kirk Cousins as new era begins

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Falcons organization, Falcons fans around the world, and those who are still upset about Arthur Smith's failure to get the most out of Kyle Pitts.

It's a new day for the Falcons. And there will no doubt be a conversation in this space about the tight end during our fantasy chat below, but first, let's take a look at the team itself, which underwent some major changes in the offseason. New head coach. New quarterback. And another new quarterback. It's going to be a pretty interesting ride for the Falcons. What does it all mean? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
POSITION NAME
Head coach Raheem Morris
General manager Terry Fontenot
Offensive coordinator Zac Robinson
Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake
Special teams coordinator Marquice Williams

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Falcons' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington (1-8) Kirk Cousins, QB Desmond Ridder, QB
Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Clemson (2-35) Ray-Ray McCloud, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR
Bralen Trice, OLB, Washington (3-74) Darnell Mooney, WR Mack Hollins, WR
Brandon Dorlus, DL, Oregon (4-109) Rondale Moore, WR Scott Miller, WR
JD Bertrand, LB, Notre Dame (5-143) Ross Dwelley, TE Jonnu Smith, TE
Jase McClellan, RB, Alabama (6-186) Charlie Woerner, TE Bud Dupree, Edge
Casey Washington, WR, Illinois (6-187) James Smith-Williams, Edge Calais Campbell, DL
Zion Logue, DT, Georgia (6-197) Tre Flowers, CB
Jeff Okudah, CB

New faces to know

Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris stands on the sideline during an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The Rams won 30-27. (Perry Knotts via AP)
Raheem Morris
Head coach

Getting Morris, the Rams defensive coordinator the last three seasons, was a great move for the Falcons. Under him, the Rams defense allowed 64 passing touchdowns since 2021, fifth-fewest in the NFL. That鈥檚 a positive. However, one thing that's not so great is the lack of turnovers. While the Falcons struggled mightily to create turnovers last season, recording 16 takeaways (fourth-fewest in the league), Morris鈥 Rams were actually worse with 15. Still, I鈥檓 optimistic Morris, who is getting a second chance at being an NFL head coach, can elevate this Falcons unit.

Zac Robinson_
Zac Robinson
Offensive Coordinator

This might be the most important hire of the Falcons鈥 offseason, as we wait for them to unleash their numerous offensive weapons on the rest of the league. Robinson served as the Rams鈥 pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach the last two seasons 鈥 which means he鈥檚 never called plays. But the Rams ranked 10th in passing offense last season, and Robinson has had success in the NFL as part of the Sean McVay coaching tree. And there is a connection with Kirk Cousins, who recently played in Kevin O鈥機onnell鈥檚 offense 鈥 another branch in the McVay pipeline. Look, we鈥檙e just playing six degrees of Mike Shanahan at this point. 

Ruke Orhorhoro
DT · Rookie

The Falcons had a huge need on defense coming into the offseason -- and still kind of have it. Last year, they didn鈥檛 generate many sacks. They didn鈥檛 create a ton of turnovers. And here鈥檚 the thing, the team has had a top-eight draft pick in each of the last four seasons but went offense with every single one of those selections (Kyle Pitts: No. 4 in 2021; Drake London: No. 8 in 2022; Bijan Robinson: No. 8 overall in 2023; Michael Penix Jr.: No. 8 overall in 2024). The Falcons also didn鈥檛 add much pass rush help in free agency, so it looks like it鈥檚 going to be up to Orhorhoro, the 35th overall pick in April鈥檚 draft, to help bring some pressure for a defense that had 42 sacks last year. The rookie posted 24 sacks over the last three seasons at Clemson. The Falcons defense has the lowest quarterback pressure percentage since 2021. Atlanta needs him to make an impact.

State of the QB room

Oh boy. The Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal in 2024, with $90M in guaranteed money, and shipped 2023 starter Desmond Ridder to the desert. I like the move, despite the fact Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury that sidelined him for half of last season. He would be the first quarterback since at least 2000 to tear his Achilles and then start in Week 1 the following season (Aaron Rodgers could do this, too). Cousins has 141 passing touchdowns and a 101.6 passer rating since 2019, both third in the NFL during that span. And here's a fun note: Cousins had more touchdown passes (18) in eight games than the Falcons had as a team last year (17). I really like this move. Signing Cousins was solid, which means drafting Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick was a shocker. But I'm kind of cool with it. I mean, Atlanta could have drafted edge rusher Dallas Turner or receiver Rome Odunze (as a Bears fan, I thank you for passing). The thing is, it's been such a nightmare at the QB position since Matt Ryan left after the 2021 season. Why not throw as many resources at the problem until you get it right? Let's say, Kirk Cousins plays great for two years and then Penix takes over and is a stud. It would be the reverse of sending Brett Favre to Green Bay. The Falcons did all right.

Most important non-QB

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · RB · Year 2

The first-rounder out of Texas led the Falcons with 214 carries, 976 rushing yards, 1,463 scrimmage yards and eight total touchdowns in 2023. Now in Year 2, with Zac Robinson coming over from the Rams, I can鈥檛 help but look at the production Kyren Williams had last year (228 carries, 1,144 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs) and think Robinson could be even better. We spend so much time discussing Cousins and Penix, when it鈥檚 kind of all for nothing because Bijan might be THE most important player on this team -- regardless of position. He is set up to have a huge year 鈥 and have even more of an impact for fantasy enthusiasts. 

My HOTTEST Falcons fantasy take:

Don't let the past sway you away from Kyle Pitts.

You're being ridiculous if you avoid drafting Kyle Pitts this fantasy season. Only 65.5 percent of his passes were catchable over the last two seasons with Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke under center, according to PFF. Cousins improves that, as he threw an uncatchable pass on just 13.9 percent of targets in 2023 (second-lowest among QBs behind only Patrick Mahomes' 13.3 percent). Pitts is one of four tight ends with at least 1,000 downfield yards (10-plus air yards) since 2021, and Cousins has the best completion percentage (56.0) and passer rating (115.5) on such throws in that span (min. 300 such attempts). Sorry if you've been burned before, but Pitts is ready to be unleashed.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2 (Monday): at Philadelphia Eagles. The good news for the Falcons, four of their five games are at home. Those opponents: the Steelers, Chiefs and division-rival s Saints and Bucs. The lone roadie is at Philly. Wow.
  • Week 14: at Minnesota Vikings. I mean, it's the Kirk Cousins REVENGE GAME. Enough said.
  • Week 18: vs. Carolina Panthers. The Falcons close with the Giants, Commanders and Panthers. Could they finish strong to make a playoff push?

For 2024 to be a success, the Falcons MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: C) Earn a playoff berth. You might think this is a bit unfair because the Falcons have struggled in recent years. But you don't sign Cousins to be a bridge quarterback, he's here to take your team to the playoffs.

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