The Atlanta Falcons looked unprepared and overmatched in their season-opening loss at Minnesota. Yet all is not lost. If the bird’s defense can play better against the run, they will even their record.
Turnovers, lack of a running game, and the inability to control the run on defense were the main reasons the Atlanta Falcons were whipped 28-12 at Minnesota. The score does not indicate how thoroughly the birds were defeated, as they once trailed 0-28.
However, the team will open their home schedule against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Improved run defense will be the reason, that the Atlanta Falcons will even their record this week.
The Atlanta Falcons defense struggled mightily to stop Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings running game. In fact, the Atlanta run defense was so porous, that the Vikings were able to defeat Atlanta while only throwing 10 passes, something that is a rarity in today’s passing oriented NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles will certainly test the Falcons ground defense early and often, in an attempt to duplicate the Vikings dominance, so Atlanta must prioritize stopping the ground game. This is a task that the Atlanta Falcons will be up to.
The Falcons certainly have personnel that is capable of stopping the run. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. With that said, being strong up the middle is essential to stopping the run and the Atlanta Falcons are certainly strong up the middle.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett leads the charge of fortifying the middle of the Atlanta defense. The 305-pound interior lineman, is often able to knife isn’t the backfield and disrupt inside running plays, before they even get started.
Jarrett was outstanding in week one, despite the team being shredded on the ground. He made five tackles to tie for 3rd on the team, with two of those tackles coming for a loss. He also had a sack in the contest.
Grady Jarrett is paired with newcomer Tyler Davison at the defensive tackle spot. The veteran Davison was signed this offseason, away from division rival New Orleans.
Though it may be difficult to believe, with the way the Minnesota Vikings ran over the Atlanta Falcons, Tyler Davidson also played well in the game. He was second on the club in tackles with six, with one of those tackles dropping the ball carrier for a loss.
Tyler Davidson and Grady Jarrett are the first lines of defense in the middle of the field and they are backed by one of the best. Middle linebacker Deion Jones is clearly one of the NFL’s most talented second-level players.
Jones who is recovering from a major foot injury, is a true sideline to sideline linebacker. He is one of the fastest linebackers in the league. Jones had a slow day against Minnesota, making just four tackles. Except Jones to at minimum double that number against the Eagles.
Keanu Neal the Atlanta Falcons strong safety, also adds to the formidable run defense up the middle. He most often plays in the box, as coach Dan Quinn uses a single high safety scheme.
Neal is also recovering from a major injury, after tearing his ACL early last season. He only had one tackle against the Vikings, which certainly won’t be the case moving forward. In a league that now discourages big hits due to concussions, Keanu is one of the few true thumpers left.
Where the Atlanta Falcons were butchered in Minnesota, was on the edges. Outside zone and toss sweep plays, were particularly effective for the Vikings.
The toss being super effective was surprising, considering it was a staple of former coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s offense. The Falcons defense has practiced against in on numerous occasions.
Cornerbacks Isiah Oliver and Desmond Trufant must do a better job of disengaging from blocks on the perimeter. Slot cornerback Damontae Kazee and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell must help set the edge as well.
The key to stopping the outside run is the play of the Atlanta Falcons defensive ends. Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley were overpowered by the Vikings offensive line. They combined for just six tackles, with McKinley having one for a loss.
Vic and Takk were constantly redirected and unable to keep outside contain. However, Atlanta Falcons do have better options to set the edge In first down.
With the struggles that both Beasley and McKinley have had rushing the passer over the last two seasons, the Falcons won’t lose much, if anything, by giving Clayborn and Bailey more snaps.
The Atlanta Falcons versus the Philadelphia Eagles will be a heavyweight matchup. I believe the game will be a barn burner.
Expect the Atlanta Falcons run defense to show some pride and be much better than in week one. Combine that with using better run defenders on the edge and Atlanta will force Philadelphia to throw the ball much more, than the ten times Minnesota did.
The Atlanta Falcons will have trouble finding running room inside against the Eagles tough interior line. So they will compensate with the short passing game.
I anticipate Julio Jones having a huge game after being shut down to the tune of six catches for 31 yards, by Xavier Rhodes of Minnesota. Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper should have great games as well.
The Atlanta Falcons have never started a season 0-2 with Matt Ryan as the quarterback. Their matchup vs the Philadelphia Eagles will be a hard-fought contest, but I expect that trend to continue as Atlanta prevails.