Dave Ragone’s fingerprints all over revamped Falcons offense

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, a former NFL quarterback, has been heavily involved in the retooling of the offense.

Ragone helped quarterbacks coach Charles London get quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder ready to run the offense, while coach Arthur Smith will remain the play-caller.

“I mean, we’re trending,” Ragone said. “We have, obviously, the ability each and every day to work on something fundamentally.”

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Falcons

The Falcons didn’t do anything particularly well on offense last season. They finished ranked 29th in the NFL in yards gained (303.8 per game), 31st in rushing (85.4 yards per game), 16th in passing (218.4 yards per game) and 26th in scoring (18.4 points per game).

The unit was challenged in the exhibition games by the Lions, Jets and Jaguars. The first-team players didn’t play against the Jaguars.

“In Week 1, (we have) to prepare for a great opponent in New Orleans with what they provide defensively,” Ragone said.

Ragone and London stressed the fundamentals while trying to get Mariota ready for the season after he was a reserve for the past two seasons.

In addition to getting Mariota prepared, the Falcons must improve their rushing attack. Running backs Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams will head the attack, and the franchise is excited about rookie Tyler Allgeier and his potential.

If the Falcons can run the ball better, that will open the passing game.

“There are things X’s and O’s-wise that you’re seeing how they fit the players,” Ragone said. “Our job as coaches is to make sure that we highlight their strengths. We must make sure that we’re playing to the best of their ability.”

In the exhibition games, Ragone and London wanted to see Mariota and Ridder lead the offense. Both did well in that regard.

The passing attack will feature tight end Kyle Pitts. Wide receivers Drake London and Bryan Edwards were added via the draft and through a trade to help revamp the position.

“There’s a certain way that we like to play football,” Ragone said. “These guys are going in, and first and foremost, you have to know your assignment and you have to play with a certain intent.”

The Falcons hope London, the eighth player taken in this year’s NFL draft, is a centerpiece of the unit. After coming back from a broken ankle, he had a strong offseason. Then he was hit on his left knee in the first exhibition game Aug. 12 and did not practice through Aug. 30. How much he’ll be able to contribute early in the season has to be a question mark.

“I think right now, obviously, regardless of if it was Drake or another receiver, like when Bryan Edwards was out a day or two, it just changes the rotation – different guys competing at different spots,” Ragone said. “What’s great about this group offensively is regardless of who is in the lineup, we mix in personnel, you see guys willing to do whatever and wanting to compete.”

Behind London and Edwards, the Falcons have Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd and Jared Bernhardt.

London was the first wide receiver taken in the draft, ahead of Garrett Wilson (10th overall to the Jets), Chris Olave (11th to the Saints) and Jameson Williams (12th to the Lions).

“We’re trying to build chemistry,” Ragone said. “We’re trying to build rhythm. It does obviously help from the quarterback perspective to build that timing and trust.”

The offensive line will have at least one new starter in left guard Elijah Wilkinson, who beat out Jalen Mayfield, who sustained a lower back injury and will start the season on injured reserve.

Kaleb McGary held off the challengers to retain his right tackle spot, while Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman battled for the starting center spot.

The offensive line has given up at least 40 sacks in each of the previous three seasons and hasn’t been effective in opening holes for the rushing attack.

“I think from the line’s perspective … what you see out there is a bunch of guys going out in different units and playing to the best of their ability and pushing each other,” Ragone said. “It starts really pre-practice all the way through. For right now, with what the guys are asked to do, they’re getting pushed by (offensive line) coach (Dwayne) Ledford, and they’re responding.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

About the Author

Editors' Picks