Labor Day weekend has come and gone, which only means one thing –– football. The Atlanta Falcons are officially back in business and are making the trip to Philadelphia to spoil the last of their party. We take a look at what to watch for heading into tonight’s matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Steve Sarkisian’s New Wrinkles
Yes, the narrative that we all seem to love so much continues. Will Steve Sarkisian improve from his disappointing debut season with the Falcons. The same conversation that we’ve all been having since last October, doesn’t seem to get old. To me it has, but hopefully, this will be the last time I need to bring it up. Yes, I genuinely believe that the Falcons offense will be vastly improved. I also believe these “new wrinkles” are a real thing that will most definitely spark the Falcons offense.
Sarkisian, now in year two is primed for his own breakout year. I believe, considering the circumstances, he did a fine job last season. Was it great? No, but it certainly could have been much worse and he had the Falcons nine yards away from defeating the eventual super bowl champions. We all seem to forget about the blunders of Kyle Shanahan in year one, and none of us were questioning his “new wrinkles” before 2016.
Let me put it this way. The Atlanta Falcons are incredibly talented on offense and Sarkisian is a professional in his field. I have supreme confidence that he will be able to get the absolute most from his players. Let’s not forget, that defense is pretty talented as well.
Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman
Falcons have taken extra precaution this preseason with a couple of their stud offensive players. Devonta Freeman, who has had a history of concussions, was held out this preseason. The Falcons just wanted to be sure that they had their star running back at full strength headed into the season. The team also had reports that Freeman was nursing a leg injury down the stretch of last season.
Julio Jones, who held out of OTA’s and Minicamp, was also held out of all preseason action. Jones, who has been a superstar since being drafted says that this is the healthiest he’s been in 3 years. A healthy Julio Jones could be a very scary thing for opposing teams.
There should be very little concern about these two headed into week one. They may not have played, but they will absolutely be ready. The Falcons spent the most of preseason giving their roster bubble players as many snaps as possible. As we all know, the team emphasizes in player development and at this point in time, we know what the starters are capable of.
The Battle In The Trenches
Ah, yes, if you follow me on Twitter you would understand my concern for this. In fact, this could honestly be on my watch list every week. I believe that the Falcons addressed the interior defensive line, but I do not believe they did it well enough. This is the one area, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that I feel the Falcons are vulnerable.
The Falcons need to get the most out of their pass rush this year and that starts with Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley. I do believe that McKinley could be a consistent 10 sack a year player, but I am concerned about him outside of the football field. Vic Beasley, who is undersized has only shown us how inconsistent he is. Is it realistic to believe he can accumulate double digit sacks again this season? Finally, the interior defensive line has a nice rotation, but outside of Grady Jarrett, it’s filled with question marks.
The Falcons offensive line is more than capable to hold their own against any defensive line in the NFL. This year’s unit might actually be the deepest in Falcons history, and that is reassuring to know. I believe the Falcons can win their matchups most weeks, and I expect them to be able to do so tonight too.
The battle in the trenches is going to be the deciding factor in tonight’s game.