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49ers 2019 opponent preview: Atlanta Falcons

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It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents for 2019. Today it’s the Atlanta Falcons

The NFC South has offered the San Francisco 49ers a couple of good memories. There’s the Vernon Post with the New Orleans Saints, and with the Falcons there’s this gem.

So the 49ers get the Falcons in 2019. This game is interesting for several reasons. For one thing, the Falcons and 49ers complement each other quite well this year. This will mean a fun game for everyone. For another, Kyle Shanahan goes up against the team that helped him get the job in San Francisco. As an offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan gave Matt Ryan his best career-year as a pro and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl. That very championship game was brilliantly called also. Well, until the last three or four minutes.

Shanahan went to the 49ers; the Falcons tried to maintain stability. They went 10-6 in 2017 but fell to 7-9 in 2018. It’s not easy when you have the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints in your division.

The Falcons have made some interesting additions via the draft. They’ve made substantial upgrades to their offensive line, but their defense, which was 25th in points against, and 5th in yards given up, didn’t get the same attention.

Can that defense stand up to their former offensive coordinator? Can that offensive line show some improvement?

Draft picks

Round 1: Chris Lindstrom (G)

Round 1: Kaleb McGary (OT)

Round 4: Kendall Sheffield (CB)

Round 4: John Cominsky (DE)

Round 5: Qadree Ollison (RB)

Round 5: Jordan Miller (CB)

Round 6: Marcus Green (RB)

Notable free agent acquisitions

James Carpenter (G)

Jamon Brown (G)

Luke Stocker (TE)

Notable departures

Robert Alford (CB)

Tevin Coleman (RB) :)

Bruce Irvin (DE)

Holy offensive line additions, Batman! The Falcons’ most significant issue in 2018 was offensive line play, namely depth, and health, and they didn’t mess around getting that thing back up. They prioritized it in free agency with James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, and then took a shiny new tackle in Kaleb McGary. Not only did they take him, but they also traded some picks to get him. As a huge fan of dominant O-lines, I love what they did.

It makes sense too. Matt Ryan is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, and it’s a wonder how his body is not in pieces after that season. Sixth in QB hits (108), 13th in Sacks (42). If it weren’t for the fact Matt Ryan is so damn athletic, those numbers would have been higher.

After that? Well, not so much. The McGary pick was a bit of a double-edged sword in that the Falcons got a good lineman, but also sacrificed picking for a while. The Falcons wouldn’t select again until the 4th round and took Kendall Sheffield, who might be out for a stretch of training camp. That said, he could be useful, but it feels a bit early in the draft to be saying that about a prospect.

I like John Cominsky where they got him, but he has a bit of an uphill battle. Then the Falcons took two running backs. I mean, Tevin Coleman is gone, but there’s nothing else they needed?

The departures don’t hurt very much. Robert Alford was released after an awful 2018, so the Falcons knew what they were doing there. While Alford was great early on, he was not worth the money due after the season he had.

Tevin Coleman hurts, but that was always going to be DeVonta Freeman’s show. Freeman first, Coleman second. Just how it rolls.

In a year, the Falcons could have one of the league’s best offensive lines. That’s the problem; they need a year.

The matchup

The Falcons and the 49ers compliment themselves quite well. Dare I say it, this could be an entertaining game to watch for both fans. The Falcons travel to Santa Clara for this, and I think it’s going to depend on how the rest of the NFC South is shaping up. If the Falcons are in it at this point, this will be a competitive game. If the Saints have claimed victory of the division and the Falcons don’t have a shot at the wildcard, you could see this going a different way.

In a straight-up slugfest with both teams at full strength in Santa Clara, I’ll go with the 49ers on this one. If they were in Atlanta, I’d go with the Falcons. Julio Jones will be a beast in this game and go over 100 yards, but I doubt there’s much else the Falcons can answer for. Kyle Shanahan will no doubt be in defensive meetings to chat about what Matt Ryan does, and the 49ers defense will use that information to their advantage. Tevin Coleman also will want to make a statement. Niners win this one by a field goal.