Matt Ryan & Co. Lead Atlanta Falcons to 4-0 Start in Season's First Quarter

Joe Mac@@Joe_Mac_Contributor IIOctober 5, 2012

Sep 30, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in action against the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Falcons are undefeated and considered to be one of the top-three teams in the NFL. They’ve played phenomenal offense and opportunistic, big-play, defense.

The team as a whole has been great; individual parts of the team have not.

Through the first quarter of the season, some positions are established as strengths, while others have some improvements to make heading into the second quarter.

Quarterback- A+: As the NFL’s highest rated quarterback through the first quarter of the season, Matt Ryan is off to the best start of his career.

He is also second in the league in completion percentage at 69 percent and touchdowns with 11, while only throwing two interceptions.     

Offensive line- C-: Pass protection had been a plus through week three (four sacks total), but took an ugly turn in week four against the Carolina Panthers (7 sacks in the game).

The team’s rushing attack is middle-of-the-road (18th), averaging just less than 98 yards per game and only three touchdowns.     

Running back- B-: The backs have not been bad, but they also haven’t been great.

Pass receiving alone gets them the solid grade, as they have not been a consistent threat in the run game.       

Wide receiver- A: Big plays are there, but so are some key drops.

Honestly, behind the quarterback position, Atlanta’s wide receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas are arguably the deepest and most athletic group in the league.  They have  few weaknesses and are loaded with big-play ability.

Tight end- A-: Tony Gonzalez remains an A+ performer.  He’s just coupled with C-grade counterparts at the tight end position.

Gonzalez is second on the team in receptions and total yards, while being tied for first with White and Jones with three touchdowns.

Defensive line- C+: The group as a whole is very middle-of-the-road, yet in part has some very good players.

All that said, defensive lines are judged on pass rushing ability and the Falcons DL remains below average in group pressures without aid from second level blitzers.  

Linebacker- B: Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon are standouts of an otherwise average group of NFL linebackers.

Defensive back- A: Unquestionably the most improved unit on the team.

Seven interceptions (tied for third in the league with only four touchdowns against), eighth in passing yards per game, ninth in passing yards allowed, and eighth in yards per pass attempt.

Punt return- C: Dominique Franks has been average at best.

Kickoff return- A: Jacquizz Rodgers is averaging 39 yards per return.

Kicker- A: Matt Bryant is 9-for-9 on field goals and 13-13 on extra points.

The only question surrounding Bryant is his ability over 50 yards.  He has no attempts thus far.

Punter- A: Matt Bosher is 12th in the league in net average yards per punt, but is 3rd in fair catches.