The Falcons were projected to compete for the Super Bowl title last season, but injuries robbed the team of key players on defense and both starting guards.
The Falcons stumbled out of the gate, but regrouped as they were 4-4 at the halfway point. But a lackluster performance in Cleveland led to a five-game losing streak.
The team closed out with three consecutive wins, but that wasn’t enough to save the jobs of coordinators Steve Sarkisian, Marquand Manuel and Keith Armstrong.
Here's the fifth installment of our unit-by-unit review of the 2018 team. On Monday, we’ll move over to the defensive side of the ball. Today, the wide receivers:
Who: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert.
Contract/free-agent situation: Hooper is set to enter the final year of his rookie contract. Paulsen is set to become an unrestricted free agent March 13.
What they did in season: Something caught Hooper’s attention last offseason and it may been the team heavily scouting former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst through the pre-draft process.
Hurst went one pick ahead of the Falcons to the Ravens, 25th overall.
Hooper turned in his best season as a pro and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. He caught 71 of 88 targets (80.7 catch percentage) for 660 yards and four touchdowns, all career-highs, in his third season.
“It was great considering all of the hard work that I was putting in over the offseason,” Hooper told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So, it’s just gratifying to know that if you make sacrifices and put in the work that it would come.”
Hooper played in the Pro Bowl after Eagles tight end Zach Ertz pulled out of the game. He caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the all-star game.
Hooper said he spent more than 200 hours working with quarterback Matt Ryan over the offseason.
Paulsen didn’t distinguish himself as a blocking tight end and was part of the running game getting stuffed.
Saubert played in all 16 games and came up with five catches. Grade: B-minus
Tuesday: Running backs
Wednesday: Offensive line
Thursday: Wide receivers
Friday: Tight ends
Next Week: Defense/Special teams