In the last three NFL drafts, the Atlanta Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall, receiver Drake London No. 8 overall and running back Bijan Robinson No. 8 overall. With such high-end talent on the field, you'd think the Falcons would boast a dynamic, explosive offense. So far, in 2023, that's simply not been the case.
Robinson has been a highlight reel and was again Sunday, generating 137 scrimmage yards on 19 touches, but the rest of the operation has been as dull a traffic jam.
After suggesting during training camp that the Falcons' offense would be "entertaining," coach Arthur Smith knows it's on him to turn things around.
"We have to do a better job, and it starts with me jump-starting the offense early," Smith said after Sunday's loss, via the team's official website. "We put ourselves in the hole again, and we can't turn the ball over. ... You're going to make life harder on yourself."
Second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder has disappointed through the first four weeks, averaging 186 passing yards per game and rarely testing downfield. On Sunday, he had two pass attempts beyond 20 yards, neither completed.
The book on Ridder entering 2023 was that he might not be a high-end passer like Sunday's counterpart Trevor Lawrence, but he was a steady force who made smart decisions and didn't turn the ball over.
That wasn't the case in London. Ridder threw back-to-back interceptions in the second quarter, including a pick-six that got the Falcons into a 17-0 hole. The QB then gave up a sack-fumble on the final possession to seal the loss.
"I did a terrible job of taking care of the ball," Ridder said.
It marked the first multi-turnover game of Ridder's career, who has fewer than 250 passing yards in all eight career starts. Despite the inefficient offense, Smith never considered benching Ridder for veteran gunslinger Taylor Heinicke.
"Those are tough lessons for a young quarterback," Smith said of the interceptions. "(You) find out about yourself when you go back out there. In the second half, he was able to push the ball down the field a little bit. I thought he operated cleaner in the pocket and we were able to get some looks, and he was not risk-averse after that, which a lot of times that happens."
Last year, Smith resisted a QB change during Marcus Mariota's struggles until it was too late. It's too soon to completely abandon the second-year QB, but Ridder's play has been frustrating for a team that expected to compete for the NFC South title. The last two weeks have looked eerily similar to last year's offensive struggles, in which Pitts and London go absent from the offense for long stretches.
London suggested after the game that it's on the players to turn things around.
"Maybe ourselves," he said when asked what's holding the Falcons back. "After this one, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure some things out. We have talented players in this locker room. We just have to go out and make plays."
Maybe that starts with the pass catchers. Maybe it's the QB play. Or maybe it's on the head coach and play-caller. Whatever the issue, averaging 6.5 points per game over two contests isn't going to entertain anyone.