The Atlanta Falcons recorded their third victory of the season on Sunday in a 34-31 overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills, an achievement that has sadly been celebrated more than a win over any Bills’ team should ever be.
The 2013 season has been a bust for the Atlanta Falcons, who are now 3-9 and were the first team eliminated from playoff contention this season. Despite the fact that victories have been few and incredibly far between for the Dirty Birds this year, several Falcons have been very impressive to watch, leaving many to still have hope for this team’s future. Let’s take a look at five Falcons’ players whose play this season has provided some optimism for next year:
Paul Worrilow, Linebacker – Undrafted out of Delaware, Worrilow was a push to make the roster but played exceptionally well in the pre-season, recording 10 total tackles, which was tied with the Cowboys’ J.J. Wilcox for the most through four games. Worrilow was forced to step up into a starting role due to the absence of Sean Weatherspoon and has played lights-out nearly every Sunday in a season that has included three straight games with double-digit tackles (against Carolina, Seattle, and Tampa Bay) and a grand total of 89 tackles, leaving Worrilow 28th in the entire NFL. Not too shabby for a player that scouts and draft websites were not very high on, including TFY Draft Insider, which stated last year that Worrilow “…lacks the size and speed to get consideration at any point during the draft. His only chance to make a roster at the next level is as a special teams player.”
Desmond Trufant, Cornerback – We started off by looking at the undrafted player with the chip on his shoulder, and now we move on to Trufant, Atlanta’s first round pick in 2013 and the brother of former fellow NFL corners Marcus and Isaiah. Trufant has done a great job through twelve games in playing adequate pass coverage in a division where there is no shortage of talented quarterbacks, and at this point the former Washington Huskie has recorded 44 solo tackles, one forced fumble, and fourteen passes defended. Trufant was also part of a heads-up play with fellow rookie cornerback Robert Alford that helped set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal in Sunday’s victory, leaving Falcons fans very hopeful for this duo’s immediate future.
Harry Douglas, Wide Receiver – The Falcons’ receiving corps was decimated this year due to the loss of Julio Jones and Roddy White’s nagging injuries, leaving Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing game to be incredibly questionable. Thankfully, Douglas has stepped up in his sixth season with the team, reeling in 66 receptions for 906 yards and 2 touchdowns, which is easily the best year he has had in the pros (the last two years Douglas combined for 77 catches, 894 yards, and 2 TDs). With 75.5 yards per game, Douglas has been one of Matt Ryan’s go-to receivers this year, which has definitely taken pressure off of a quarterback that has been hit early and often this season.
Antone Smith, Running back – Smith, like Worrilow, was very impressive in the pre-season, but his chances of making the team seemed slim to none thanks to the presence of Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jason Snelling on the roster. However, Smith has played great in limited time over the course of the last three games, racking up 137 yards on 4 carries, the best being a 50-yard touchdown run against the Buccaneers. Atlanta’s rushing attack has been paltry this season, and although Smith is still not close to being on the radar of starting for the team, his emergence and play-making ability has led to more playing time and has at the very least thrown something else at opposing defensive coordinators to watch out for.
Darius Johnson, Wide Receiver – Harry Douglas was not the only wide receiver that had to step up and take on a bigger role with the Falcons, as Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of SMU, was called upon to start in Week 7 against Tampa Bay and did his part to help the Falcons win, finishing the contest with two receptions for 24 yards. As the weeks progressed, Johnson has gotten more and more looks from Ryan, which was highlighted in Atlanta’s Thursday night game against the Saints, where Johnson had six receptions for 67 yards. To say Johnson has played perfect is far from the truth; Johnson had a fumble in the game against New Orleans that wound up being crucial to the Falcons falling for the eighth time in 2013. However, he has shown a considerable amount of potential for the team, which will be helpful in these remaining four games and will more than likely be considered when the depth chart is set for next season.
Which Atlanta Falcons player has impressed you the most in 2013? Leave a comment and let your opinion be heard!