Grading Every Atlanta Falcons Starter's 2013 Regular Season

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIDecember 31, 2013

Grading Every Atlanta Falcons Starter's 2013 Regular Season

0 of 11

    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    It's finally over.

    The Atlanta Falcons' dreadful 2013 season is over. While their 4-12 record says that the team overall probably deserves an "F" or a "D-" at best, the Falcons were able to improve in some areas and have some bright spots to build off of.

    However, to really get a grasp of the Falcons' unit-by-unit needs, you have to take a look at how the starters performed. We'll go over each unit as we grade every Falcons player who started in any game.


1 of 11

    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    QB Matt Ryan

    It was a trying year for Ryan. He was sacked 44 times, had his top two receivers out for the better part of 11 games each and was normally working with Harry Douglas as his No. 1 receiver and Drew Davis or Darius Johnson as his No. 2. 

    Luckily, Tony Gonzalez was still the same guy he's been since 1997. Without the safety valve, it's tough to believe Ryan would have had his third straight year over 4,000 passing yards. His 4,515 passing yards and 26 touchdowns signified a very good single-season campaign.

    It still wasn't enough for the Falcons to win more than four games. For Ryan to maximize his potential in 2014, the Falcons will have to replace Gonzalez with a legitimate starting tight end, and Ryan will have to get better protection from his offensive line.

    However, the Falcons quarterback did improve. He finally learned how to navigate a muddled pocket, and he learned how to deal when his receivers weren't a pair of top-10 guys. It will be interesting to see how Atlanta proceeds forward.

    Grade: B-

Running Back

2 of 11

    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    RB Steven Jackson

    When healthy, Steven Jackson could be a 20-touch, 100-yard, one-touchdown-per-game guy. While that's not great, it's good enough for a No. 1 running back in the Falcons offense and more than worth the money Atlanta has been paying him.

    Grade: C

    FB Bradie Ewing

    Play one game. Look solid. Get injured. Welcome to the life of Bradie Ewing in a Falcons uniform. If he gets injured again in the 2014 season, it wouldn't be shocking to see him cut. Atlanta needs to find an H-back in the draft to compete with him.

    Grade: F

    RB Jacquizz Rodgers

    When Steven Jackson went out with injury, Jacquizz Rodgers looked good as an all-around running back. He was Atlanta's best option as both a receiver and rusher when he started. However, he showed that he should remain the change-of-pace running back.

    Grade: C+

    FB Patrick DiMarco

    The best fullbacks are the ones whom you have no idea who they are because they do their jobs. Patrick DiMarco is that kind of player. He's a solid seal-blocker and a decent receiver out of the backfield. He's earned a shot at the starting job in 2014.

    Grade: A

Wide Receivers

3 of 11

    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    WR Roddy White

    The first 11 games of the year, Roddy White was pretty much useless to the Falcons offense. He should have just spent the first four games of the year healing up from a high ankle sprain. Over the last five games of the season, White had 43 catches for 502 yards and two touchdowns.

    Grade: B

    WR Julio Jones

    Outside of a freak accident that made him miss 11 games, Julio Jones looked like one of the top receivers in the NFL. He had 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns. That's in five games. If he were healthy the entire season, there's no question he could have put up career-best numbers.

    Grade: A+

    WR Harry Douglas

    Don't let his 1,067 yards fool you, Harry Douglas only looked decent because the Falcons had no one else to throw to at wide receiver in 2013. Ryan threw seven interceptions when he was targeting Douglas because the sixth-year receiver doesn't fight for the ball in 50-50 situations.

    Grade: C

    WR Drew Davis

    Drew Davis and NFL starter are words which should never mix. He's a great special teams player and a solid slot receiver. However, there's no reason for the Falcons to start him unless there are massive injuries in 2014.

    Grade: D

    WR Darius Johnson

    There's things that Darius Johnson can do for an offense. Being the starting wide receiver instead of Julio Jones, White or Drew Davis shouldn't be one of them. He's a true slot receiver and should compete with Douglas for that role in 2014.

    Grade: C

Tight Ends

4 of 11

    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    TE Tony "Greatest of All Time" Gonzalez

    Whatever Tony Gonzalez does to be great, every Atlanta Falcon needs to emulate it in the future. At 37 years old, he looked like he still had another five or six years left in the tank. His 83 catches for 859 yards and eight touchdowns was right on par with his average-season stats. 

    Atlanta will have a tough time replacing his production. The Falcons did bring in Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman to learn from him, but it's tough to believe they will be able to match his production based on how little they have shown so far in their careers.

    Grade: A+

Offensive Linemen

5 of 11

    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    LT Sam Baker

    In the five games that Sam Baker was actually healthy in 2013, he only looked like a competent starting left tackle in just two of them. However, he was fighting injuries all season before he was finally put on injured reserve. When healthy, he's an above-average tackle.

    Grade: D-

    LG Justin Blalock

    Justin Blalock was the only bright spot on the offensive line that shouldn't be challenged in 2014 for a starting role. He was a poor run-blocker, but that has never been his strong suit. As a pass-blocker, he was still the wall he has always been, allowing just four sacks and five hits all season.

    Grade: B

    C/RG Peter Konz

    Peter Konz has been nothing short of disappointing in 2013. He showed absolutely zero functional strength and was benched at both center and at right guard. He has no business starting for an NFL team until he can get that in check. 

    Grade: F

    RG Garrett Reynolds

    While Garrett Reynolds didn't look like someone who should have been starting in the NFL regularly, he didn't look god-awful either. He's a middling talent who's best ability comes off the bench as the sixth-best offensive lineman. Atlanta could cut him after the season for a minimal loss.

    Grade: C

    RT/LT Lamar Holmes

    Lamar Holmes had a rough season in what was essentially his rookie year. While he showed that he isn't a starting left tackle in the NFL, he does deserve to have a shot at right tackle. He would fit in better without having to face a team's premier pass-rusher every single play.

    Grade: F

    RT Jeremy Trueblood

    When it comes to poor free-agent moves, this one takes the cake. The Falcons only brought him in because Mike Johnson got injured and honestly, they should have never brought him in. They should have selected rookie undrafted free agent Ryan Schraeder as he performed better.

    Grade: F

    C Joe Hawley

    When Joe Hawley finally got a shot to play center, the Falcons got the guy they needed in the middle. He understands protections, has nastiness to him and is very similar to Todd McClure in a lot of ways. Atlanta needs to make him a priority-re-sign target this coming offseason, as he's a free agent.

    Grade: B

    RT Ryan Schraeder

    As an undrafted free agent, Schraeder wasn't even expected to make the roster. However, he showed great footwork and solid hand usage for his frame. He's still very raw as a prospect, but he could have a great future as a swing tackle in the NFL. He's very similar to Will Svitek in a lot of ways.

    Grade: C

Defensive Tackles

6 of 11

    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    DT Corey Peters

    Atlanta's second-best defensive starter in 2013 behind Desmond Trufant was Corey Peters. The 1-technique defensive tackle was continually taking double-teams in both the run and pass game. He had his best season yet and should be a primary-re-sign target.

    Grade: A

    DT Jonathan Babineaux

    Jonathan Babineaux is a great pass-rusher, but the Falcons were using him out of position at defensive end quite a bit. He rarely plays in the 3-technique like he should have most of the year. But when he does, the Falcons get great pass rush on the interior.

    Grade: A

    DT Peria Jerry

    Peria Jerry improved this year. But he only improved from an "F" to a "D." He's still not worth bringing back unless he takes a veteran minimum salary. His terrible play against the run and mediocrity as a pass-rusher says that he would be better on another team.

    Grade: D

Defensive Ends

7 of 11

    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    RE Osi Umenyiora

    For as solid as Osi Umenyiora was as a pass-rusher, he looked terrible against the run. Average pass rush and horrible run defense isn't what you want from the highest-priced defensive end on the roster. The Falcons could easily cut ties with the veteran in 2014.

    Grade: D

    LE Kroy Biermann

    Kroy Biermann started just two games at defensive end and honestly played more of a hybrid linebacker role. The Falcons got good production out of him when he was healthy, but missing 14.5 games drops a grade significantly.

    Grade: D

    LE/RE Jonathan Massaquoi

    For as bad as the pass rush was all season, Jonathan Massaquoi was able to develop into a bright spot by the end of the year. He is continually showing he has a future in the NFL and should be the Falcons' starting right defensive end in the 2014 season regardless of their draft or free-agency moves.

    Grade: B

    LE Malliciah Goodman

    Malliciah Goodman only got one start at left defensive end, and it was at the end of the season. During the season, Goodman showed he has potential to be a starting defensive end in the NFL. He has great run defense and should be the base left end barring a selection of someone like Jadeveon Clowney in the 2014 draft.

    Grade: B


8 of 11

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    WLB Sean Weatherspoon

    Another player who was injured most of the season is Sean Weatherspoon. The Falcons defense took a huge step back with him off the field. The low grade is mainly because he couldn't stay on the field, but when he was on the field, he was obviously never 100 percent.

    Grade: D

    MLB Akeem Dent

    Normally, players don't lose their job due to injury. But when someone steps up the way Paul Worrilow has, he deserves to keep his job. So Akeem Dent was the odd man out in the linebacker group, but he still has value as a special teams player and backup middle linebacker.

    Grade: D

    WLB/SLB Joplo Bartu

    Joplo Bartu earned the starting strong-side linebacker role when Stephen Nicholas showed he didn't deserve the job in preseason. Bartu showed he has great blitzing ability, and he can cover a tight end when the scheme called for it. These are two things the Falcons were missing in 2012.

    Grade: B

    WLB/MLB/SLB Paul Worrilow

    In preseason, Paul Worrilow showed he could play in the NFL. But the real question was just how effective he could be this season. He went from barely making the roster to franchise middle linebacker in five weeks. And in just 12 weeks of starting, he had a team-leading 127 tackles.

    For 2014, he should bulk up from his 230-pound frame. But if he can do that and maintain his speed and agility, the Falcons will have a potential Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker on their hands.

    Grade: B+


9 of 11

    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    RCB Desmond Trufant

    Desmond Trufant was far and away the Falcons best defender in 2013. His 17 passes defended and two interceptions show that he's a legitimate playmaker from the defensive backfield. He also showed that he's a great tackler in the run game throughout the season. In 2014, Trufant should continue to make strides toward being a top-five cornerback in the NFL.

    Grade: A+

    LCB Asante Samuel

    A former top-10 cornerback in the NFL, Asante Samuel regressed into a backup in 2013. He allowed just too many plays, and by the time the season ended, he was fourth on the depth chart at cornerback behind Robert McClain, Robert Alford and Trufant.

    Grade: D

    Nickel CB Robert McClain

    McClain regressed from his 2012 form. However, after he took some early bumps due to teams targeting him instead of Trufant, he started to regain form. When 2014 rolls around, the Falcons need to give McClain one more shot at keeping the nickel job long-term.

    Grade: C

    LCB Robert Alford

    Alford beat out Samuel for the starting left-corner role by the time the end of the season rolled around. While he did take his lumps, Alford showed he can be a starter for Atlanta. The Falcons have something in their cornerback duo of Trufant and Alford long-term.

    Grade: B


10 of 11

    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    SS William Moore

    After showing a great 2012 campaign, William Moore regressed as both a tackler and a playmaker in the 2013 season. Moore was unable to put up the same kind of numbers partially because the front seven had issues in front of him. However, when the front seven started to get settled, he looked like the playmaker he was in 2012 again.

    Grade: C

    FS Thomas DeCoud

    Thomas DeCoud took a step back as a coverage safety in 2013. He went from a guy who was able to make plays all throughout the season in 2012 and make a Pro Bowl to a 2013 season that didn't see the same DeCoud. The only positive step he made was in his tackling as he missed just 12 tackles in 2013 compared to 24 misses in 2012.

    Grade: D

Special Teams

11 of 11

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    K Matt Bryant

    Matt Bryant missed just three kicks all season. One was from 35 yards, but the other two were from beyond 50 yards. He's still one of the best kickers in the NFL, and his nearly automatic nature keeps his roster spot safe until he decides to retire.

    Grade: A

    P/KOS Matt Bosher

    Matt Bosher showed that he is one of the top five punters in the NFL this season. He can boot the ball deep, gets great hang time and understands directional kicks. The only thing he needs to work on is getting blocked. Because having two kicks blocked in one season is unacceptable.

    Grade: A+

    KR Jacquizz Rodgers

    While Jacquizz Rodgers will never have the home run threat to take a kick return to the house, he does give the Falcons great field position when he returns. The Falcons could use an upgrade over him but only if they provide what Rodgers can do and a home run threat.

    Grade: B

    PR Harry Douglas

    A 5.7-yard-per-return average was horrible to start with. Then Douglas fumbled a game away against Miami returning a punt he had no business even fielding. The Falcons were wise to bench him from this role as McClain wound up being better.

    Grade: F

    PR Robert Alford

    Alford had all of one punt return in the 2013 season before he fumbled one away and screwed the pooch there. He was rightfully benched for McClain the next week. Alford should stick to just being a starting left cornerback in 2014.

    Grade: F

    PR Robert McClain

    After the other two returners literally fumbled away their opportunities, McClain had a shot at the job. He turned in the best performance as well. His 10.2-yards-per-return average would rank 13th in the NFL if he qualified. The Falcons have at least an above-average returner in McClain in 2014.

    Grade: B

    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football NFL and NFL draft. He also runs

    Follow @ScottCarasik