It’s that dead time of the year for the NFL, especially with no combine due to the pandemic. Free-agency begins in less than a month, which will surely be slow because of the loss of revenue forcing teams to be more frugal than usual. It could be a slow offseason until April’s NFL draft. In the meantime, here are three not-so-outlandish predictions for the Falcons in 2021.
In Calvin Ridley’s third season, he led the team with 90 receptions for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. Ridley finished the year tied with Davante Adams, who was named first-team All-Pro, for the fifth-most receiving yards in the league, and he ranked 10th in touchdown catches. In Julio Jones‘ absence, Ridley led the NFL with eight 100-yard receiving games in 2020. Named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, he is clearly one of the best receivers in the league, making this a not-so-bold prediction. AJ Brown and Corey Davis elevated their play in Arthur Smith’s offense, expect even better results from Ridley.
It isn’t unheard of for rookie head coaches to take teams to the playoffs — Jim Caldwell and George Seifert each went 14-2 with their respective teams. Caldwell and the Colts lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl, while Seifert and the 49ers beat the Broncos. Matt LaFleur and Jim Harbaugh each made it to the Conference Championship in their rookie seasons after winning their respective divisions with 13 wins. All of those teams, except San Francisco, had established quarterbacks for their rookie head coaches to lean on. Although he isn’t Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan is more than capable of leading — with the help of Arthur Smith — the Falcons back to the NFC Championship game.
In two seasons with Dean Pees in Tennessee, Jurrell Casey recorded 12 total sacks. Casey has always been known as a run-defender first and a pass-rusher second. Grady Jarrett might be the opposite; he had the third-highest pass rush win rate last season — behind only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. Jarrett’s current personal best of 7.5 sacks should manageable to break in his first year in a new system. He’s capable of Aaron Donald-esque numbers; a competent running mate on the inside should propel Jarrett’s sack total over 10.