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Studs & Duds: Two Stars Trending in the Wrong Direction After Falcons' First Two Weeks

The Atlanta Falcons have lost a pair of close games to open up the season. The Falcons have been in those games because of some standout performances but came up short due to a lack of impact from a few key building blocks. After two games, which players' stocks are up, and which are down?

The Atlanta Falcons are now entering Week 3 of the regular season, getting off to an 0-2 start for the third consecutive campaign.

Through two games, the Falcons have played four quarters of quality football, and four far from it.

Ultimately, Atlanta has come up just a few plays short in each contest, but there have been several positive takeaways, both from an individual and team perspective.

Who's performed at a high level? On the other hand, who's failed to live up to expectations? Here are three studs - and three duds - from the season's first two games.

Stud: Drake London

Atlanta selected London with the No. 8 overall pick in April's draft, but after missing much of the pre-draft process due to an ankle injury suffered in college and over half of August following a preseason knee injury, few knew what to expect from the former USC star.

By all accounts, London has more than lived up to his draft standing thus far, leading the Falcons in receptions (13) and receiving yards (160). He also logged his first career touchdown in Atlanta's 31-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The Falcons drafted London with the hopes that he'd become a go-to receiver, and to this point, he's proven to be more than capable of handling that role.

Dud: A.J. Terrell

Terrell was one of the few bright spots on Atlanta's defense a season ago, earning second-team All-Pro honors and putting his name in the discussion for the league's top cornerback. Entering year three, he was aiming to build on his standout season and further establish himself as an elite cover corner.

Two games into the season, Terrell simply hasn't lived up to the billing. He's allowed three touchdowns, two of which were better instances of good offense rather than bad defense but has nevertheless been unable to make plays on the ball when it's come his way, including dropping an interception in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints. 

It hasn't all been bad - Terrell is second on the team in tackles - but he hasn't been the lockdown presence many expected.

Stud: Grady Jarrett

Jarrett being a stud is far from news - he's been a consistently disruptive force at defensive tackle for years. However, after having a down year statistically a season ago (career-low in tackles for loss, tied career-low in sacks), Jarrett was looking to return to the levels of production that saw him make back-to-back Pro Bowl's in 2019 and 2020.

It's safe to say he's done exactly that - Jarrett already has more sacks this season (1.5) than he did all of last year (one), consistently wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Jarrett's engine has been turned up, his hands have been as quick and powerful as usual, and he appears to be well on his way to turning in another outstanding season.

Dud: Kyle Pitts

Let's preface this was the obvious: this has little to do with Pitts as an individual player. He's a more well-rounded player than he was a year ago, making significant strides as a blocker and seeming to be more refined as a route runner.

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Nevertheless, Atlanta's Pro Bowl tight end, the highest drafted player of all time at the position, has just four catches for 38 yards and no touchdowns following two identical performances of two catches for 19 yards. Pitts has all of the talent and skill to be a dominant player, but the Falcons simply haven't given him the opportunity to do so.

Pitts has seen 10 targets through two games, with many pointing to him drawing additional coverage as the primary factor. While that's not entirely inaccurate, Pitts has still managed to get open - Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota just hasn't found him. For a player of Pitts' ability and expectations, his lack of production firmly puts him on the wrong side of this list.

Stud: Richie Grant

Last season, the Falcons were led in tackles by two linebackers: Foye Oluokun and Deion Jones. That was far from out of the ordinary, as linebackers are often the most productive players tackles-wise on defense. Through two games, Atlanta's leading tackler is Grant, a 6-0, 200-pound safety who's served as a chess piece for Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

A 2021 second-round pick out of UCF, Grant had a ho-hum rookie season but flashed with his athleticism, speed and man coverage ability. The biggest jump of most players' careers comes from year one to year two, and Grant, who's played all but one defensive snap and recorded 16 tackles, certainly looks like he's joined a long list of players (including the above-mentioned Terrell) to make a second-year leap.

Dud: Bryan Edwards

The Falcons traded a fifth-round pick to acquire Edwards from the Las Vegas Raiders in May with the hopes that he could become their No. 2 receiver. After posting 34 receptions for 571 yards and three touchdowns last season, the 23-year-old Edwards appeared poised to break out in his new home.

Two games into his Atlanta tenure, Edwards has caught just one pass for two yards on three targets. He played nearly half (35) of the offensive snaps in Week 1, but saw his workload drop to just over a quarter (16) against the Rams. At the moment, Edwards is firmly behind Olamide Zaccheaus in Atlanta's receivers room, and has been outperformed by KhaDarel Hodge in a similar number of snaps.

The Falcons didn't spend immense capital to get Edwards, but his age, production and talent all offered reasons to believe that he could assert himself as a starting wideout. To this point, he hasn't proven he's ready for that role.

Will the studs continue their strong early-season performances? Can the duds turn around their slow starts? 

Only time will tell, with the next opportunity to make an impression - for better or worse - coming on Sunday, when the Falcons travel to Lumen Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks, with kickoff set at 4:25 p.m.


You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft

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