What’s wrong with Falcons? Ask the veterans

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

LONDON — When you want to check the pulse of a team, you go to the veterans because they are going to tell the truth.

After the Falcons 23-7 loss to the Jaguars with just under a quarter of the season completed, veterans Calais Campbell, Grady Jarrett, Chris Lindstrom, Bud Dupree and Jonnu Smith all shared their thoughts with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the state of the 2-2 team after a wobbly performance by quarterback Desmond Ridder and the blowup of wide receiver Mack Hollins on the sidelines.

“We played a lot of good football for moments,” Campbell said. “We have to find a way to play it all the time.”

Dupree concurred with Campbell.

“We have to rally back and make sure we keep our composure in big moments,” Dupree said. “Stop key plays. Football is football.”

Here are the five takeaways from those interviews:

Is Ridder the guy?: Ridder has now started eight games and is 4-4. His two interceptions on back-to-back throws helped to put the Falcons in a 17-0 hole Sunday.

“Surprisingly, he’s still motivating guys on the sidelines,” Smith said. “He’s still telling guys ‘let’s go.’ Very rare to see that out of a young quarterback.”

Smith believes the team has Ridder’s back.

“It’s so easy when things are going well, of course you’re going to be laughing and smiling,” Smith said. “When things hit the fan, you kind of find out who that man really is.”

Slow starts: The Falcons must figure out how to start faster on offense.

“My job as a player is that I have to have the most energy and highest effort and focus on my job to start the game,” Lindstrom said. “Be the best that I can be. Have energy for everybody.”

The Falcons have not scored on the opening drive in each of the four games.

“We have to look at it and figure out why we are shooting ourselves in the foot at the beginning of these games, these very important games,” Smith said. “We just have got to find ways to come out with the expectations that we set for ourselves and expectations that we know we can reach. Whatever it takes.”

Smith and rookie running back Bijan Robinson have been the most productive of the offensive weapons. Wide receiver Drake London, tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Tyler Allgeier also want the ball.

“We all can give our perspectives on what we feel is kind of the of the issue that’s going on in the offense,” Smith said. “I’m sure there is some truth to every one of them. We all have different things.

“A lot of us have taken a lot of snaps and we can give our input on what we think the problem is. Whatever it is we all have got to agree on what we need to get better at. Hone into that and take it one day at a time.”

The Hollins situation: It will be interesting to see how the Falcons handle the Hollins situation. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you can’t show up the quarterback on the sidelines.

“Sometimes we’re so passionate about the game and winning,” Smith said. “Sometimes we kind of lose control of our emotions. We’re going to end up staying together. We’re all brothers. We play hard for one another. We’re confident that we’ll overcome this.”

Campbell is in his 16th season and has seen it all.

“This team has a lot of fight,” Campbell said. “We’re a tough team that’s going to play whistle to whistle. They made more plays than we did. They got the tough breaks as well. That’s football.”

Can the Falcons step-up in competition?: The Falcons beat the Panthers and Packers, but we’re never in the games against the Lions and Jaguars.

In order to end their five-season playoff drought, they must step up and beat the better teams.

“I think the biggest thing is that we need to settle down and play technically sound football,” Campbell said. “I feel like there are opportunities for us to make plays and win ball games. We have to take advantage of those plays when they come.”

The Falcons need to stop their two-game losing streak.

“The biggest message is win the next one,” Campbell said. “We’re going back home. It’s a big game. Just find a way to win the next one. When you lose or you going on a losing streak and you lose two, you just have to get back in the win column.”

Jacksonville won the AFC South and went to the playoffs last season

“Every year is a new year, right,” Campbell said. “We knew this was a good team that we were playing, but we have to be able to beat the good teams. Same as last week, we played a really good team (Detroit) that I feel is going to be a playoff team. We have to be able to beat these good teams. I feel like every week is a big test in the NFL.”

The next test is a Houston team that’s on a two-game winning streak led by rookie quarterback C. J. Stroud.

“We have to look at them on film and figure out a way to beat them,” Campbell said. “At this point in time, all that matters is getting that next win.”

Build around Robinson: Robinson has been better than advertised.

“He’s a special talent,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “I told y’all in the beginning (of training camp) that you could just see in the way he moves and the way he carries himself. He’s a dog competitor.”

Robinson’s start is comparable to the start of William Andrews back in 1979.

“This is just the start of a great career for him,” Jarrett said. “On top of that, he’s a better dude. As spectacular of an athlete as he is, he’s a better dude. He’s going to be great for this team, this city and this whole organization.”

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