The San Diego Chargers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for a Week 7 tilt in what will be a very difficult game on the road.
In an effort to provide you with a little insight into the Falcons and their team, I reached out to Scott Carasik of Blogging Dirty (Fansided blog covering the Falcons) and Sportsnaut.com.
Carasik has been writing about the Falcons since 2012 and the NFL and NFL draft since 2010.
1) Covering the Falcons thus far in 2016 has probably been very enjoyable, seeing as the team is off to a 4-2 start, leading the NFC South and boasting the league’s No. 1 scoring offense. What can you attribute to the team’s success in the early portions of the season?
Matt Ryan has full command of the offense that he was struggling with at times in 2015. However, the biggest offseason addition of Alex Mack to play center was huge for the Falcons. Now, Ryan doesn’t have to worry about setting protections or blitz pickups when the offense lines up. Mack also has allowed the line to run block much, much better. This gives the Falcons a great combination of Devonta Freeman running the ball and everyone else going out to catch passes.
2) Wide receiver Julio Jones is arguably the best wideout in all of the NFL. What can opposing defenses do to limit his production on game days? Or can they?
You can limit him, but it’s at a point where the offense is pick your poison. Sure, you can limit Julio Jones with double teams and brackets and matchup zones. But you basically leave the rest of your defense to be burned by the multitude of options the Falcons have at tight end, running back and wide receiver. Everyone has plays that will take advantage of their strengths and weaknesses and will get utilized at some point in the season.
3) Sticking with the Atlanta wide receivers, talk a little bit about the addition of Mohamed Sanu and his role in the Falcons’ offense.
Mohamed Sanu has been a very solid all-around addition. He’s a good blocker in the run game and can create big plays when need be. He hasn’t been super involved with the offense just yet, but that’s more to do with his injury situation more than anything else.
4) The running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman provides one of the most dangerous backfields in football. With Freeman handling the majority of the carries and Coleman proving to be a threat as a receiving option, how does Atlanta utilize the two backs in their offense?
Essentially, Freeman plays a role similar to what Brian Westbrook used to play for the Eagles. He gets the bulk of the carries, pass protects and catches the ball out of the backfield. Coleman plays a role similar to Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush. He is on the field for important short yardage carries and will get motioned out to the slot or out wide as a receiver or will catch the ball out of the backfield as well with the goal to get him in open space. Atlanta has done a great job to utilize both.
5) Matt Ryan is off to a scorching hot start in ’16, leading all quarterbacks in passing yards (2,075), yards per attempt (9.9) and quarterback rating (117.9). He is second in the league in TD throws (15) behind Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (16). Can Ryan remain this hot throughout the season, and what should Chargers fans look for with him under center regarding how he runs the offense?
Expect the unexpected. Before every play, I used to have a good idea of what the play call was and who it was going to because of how much I’ve watched Ryan in the offense. This year? I have no clue what the play call is and rarely do I know what to expect. That’s what makes him dangerous. Just when I think the Falcons are going to pass it in a Julio-based design, they go to a play-action deep to one of the tight ends. The play design is just crazy this year.
6) Defensively, outside linebacker Vic Beasley leads the Falcons with 4.5 sacks on the year, surpassing his mark of four sacks during his rookie campaign. How is Beasley used to get after quarterbacks and what flaws does he have in his game?
Beasley is normally just rushing from a nickel left end spot. He’s been a good fit there, but he is very one-dimensional right now as a speed rusher. His best move is a dip-under to the outside shoulder. He’s solid against the run too. He’s not close to reaching his potential though. He still has to figure out some counter moves.
7) I was a big fan of strong safety Keanu Neal coming into this year’s draft. His physicality certainly caught my eye as soon as I started to watch film on him. How has he looked during his rookie year and is there a defender — past or present — who he reminds you of?
Neal has been excellent as a rookie. He reminds me a lot of what William Moore was early on. He’s not the fastest safety and not the biggest safety, but he plays smart and his instincts put him in the right place at the right time. Plus, he can matchup well with tight ends in coverage if he’s actually used there.
8) Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney, formerly of the Colts and Chargers, signed with the Falcons earlier this year. What kind of impact has he made and does he still have gas left in the tank?
Freeney definitely has gas left in the tank and is a good pass rusher even still. The biggest impact he has made is helping Beasley develop his primary pass rush move. Eventually, Beasley will learn that spin and Freeney and Beasley will dominate teams together.
9) Can you please give the fans a few under-the-radar players which they should look out for on Sunday?
Deion Jones is seemingly under the radar. But he and De’Vondre Campbell have been keys to the defensive improvement this season and should continue to help the defense turn into an above average unit before the season ends. They could be essential in stopping the passes to your tight ends. On offense, the Falcons offensive line as a whole is why things work. Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder all are playing exceptionally well as a group right now even if some have individual lapses at times.
10) Lastly, who wins this game and why?
The game is in Atlanta. If I had to guess, I’d say the Falcons win it 35-28 in a similar fashion to the Oakland game. They get up early and are winning by two scores heading into the fourth quarter and goes back to the prevent to close the game out. San Diego is a good team. Atlanta is just at home and a better team.
I would like to thank Scott for taking the time to do this interview and providing the Chargers fans with a little insight into his Atlanta Falcons.
Although I hope he is wrong about the final score, I do appreciate him giving his thoughts on the Chargers-Falcons contest.
You can find Scott’s work at BloggingDirty.com, Sportsnaut.com and on Twitter (@CarasikS). He also keeps track of the 2017 NFL draft order — which is updated weekly in a spreadsheet format — here at this link: https://t.co/97PiBmB1K7.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Dave Booga Peters