Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens TE Austin Hooper: Red Zone Alert

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines the Atlanta Falcons offense and reveals ways that tight end Austin Hooper will become a bigger factor — especially in the red zone. 

One of the youngest players of the 2016 NFL Draft class, Austin Hooper was my top tight end on the board. Although Hunter Henry had a stronger start, I remain confident that Hooper will emerge as a quality all-around tight end.

Last year, Hooper made strides but the communication between the young tight end and Matt Ryan was still a bit off — and much of this had to do with Hooper being a step late at processing information as he ran routes. Ryan has already noted the improvement this summer.

The offensive personnel has also led an initiative to conduct 10-minute red zone sessions after organized practice to work on route combinations. Skill players now get additional reps with Ryan on routes where they need a little more refinement.

Another promising change is the removal of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian from the coaching booth. Sarkisian earned criticism for his play-calling and use of personnel. Dan Quinn moved Greg Knapp to the booth because Knapp is good at recognizing information that will help Sarkisian exploit defenses.

I don’t know if Sarkisian doesn’t see these alignment tendencies as well as Knapp or if it’s simply a solution that segments the work so Sarkisian can spend more time thinking about plays and leave the grunt work of intel to someone else.

Regardless, expect improvement with personnel usage and better red zone efficiency. Hooper will be a central part of both.

Atlanta will remain a balanced offense that runs the ball enough to create run-pass binds. Expect Austin Hooper — and to a lesser extent, Eric Saubert — to earn a meaningful increase in production.

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