Bill Shanks

Falcons are already in trouble

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Demar Dotson (69) blocks Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley (44) during Sunday’s game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Demar Dotson (69) blocks Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley (44) during Sunday’s game. AP

It’s only one week. It’s always smart, they say, to wait before panicking on a football season.

But for the Atlanta Falcons, it’s not just one week, not just one game. This is a trend, which includes this team going 3-8 after a 5-0 start last season. It includes the lackluster preseason (1-3) when the Falcons just looked horrible.

And Sunday, they looked awful. Don’t chalk this up to it being an early season game. Don’t chalk it up to needing more time with the young players.

This team may simply not be very good.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn can sugarcoat this all he wants, but his team showed why Sunday there was so much skepticism entering the season. Hand out a report card on what happened against Tampa Bay, and there will be few passing grades.

Let’s start with the offense. After years of scoring plenty of points, the Falcons had to change course last year under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. There is very little on Shanahan’s resume to count as impressive, and honestly, the only reason he has this job is that he’s Mike Shanahan’s son.

Kyle’s dad, the longtime Denver Broncos head coach, had John Elway. But that link does nothing to give credence that this Shanahan knows what he’s doing.

Shanahan doesn’t like the no-huddle, and he wants quarterback Matt Ryan to do things like scramble and run the boot leg. Shanahan had no use for Roddy White, the best receiver in the history of the franchise. And his zone blocking scheme has limited the type of linemen the team can have on the roster.

Shanahan has been a disaster, and now fans are questioning whether Ryan is losing it. Is it Shanahan’s faulty system, or is Ryan losing it at the age of 31?

It might be a little bit of both, but Ryan looks miserable, like he’s trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Ryan likely wishes he had Michael Turner back at running back, Tony Gonzalez back at tight end and misses the days when he could run a two-minute drill with the no-huddle.

But the issues run deeper. With each game, the bad draft picks of general manager Thomas Dimitroff show why he shouldn’t have his job. Vic Beasley, last year’s top pick, is turning into a flop. On Monday, we learned Ra’Shede Hageman, the second-round draft pick in 2014, was arrested in March on charges of cruelty to children.

Hageman has never proved he’s any good on the field, and now this. Why is he even still around?

The defense has a few excuses. One member of the secondary (first-round pick, safety Keanu Neal) is hurt, while another (Jalen Collins) is suspended. The linebackers include two rookies (Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell).

But the defensive line?

Why in the world is Brooks Reed starting at defensive end? He’s a linebacker, a middle linebacker at that. One of the key free agent signings last offseason, Derrick Shelby, can’t even crack the starting lineup. There was zero pass rush Sunday, but we’re used to that.

Owner Arthur Blank is squirming. He’s asking people to spend thousands of dollars for personal seat licenses in his new stadium. But what happens if this team is horrible? How will Blank sell expensive seats then?

Atlanta’s schedule is extremely tough. They have road games in Oakland and New Orleans before returning home to play the Panthers. Then they go to Denver and Seattle.

Does Rankin Smith still own this team, or are the Falcons just jinxed? A team that might have looked a year ago like they were taking that next step forward just took a huge step backwards with Sunday’s performance. Yes, it’s just one game, one week, but it was enough to scare most everyone into thinking the Falcons are already in trouble.

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