This is isn't the same Falcons lineup from 2011. Ok, it's pretty much the same, but the way they go about their business in 2012 will be quite different from last season.
Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan brought entirely new offensive and defensive schemes to Atlanta this offseason, and we've yet to see them implement their strategies into full effect.
There are plenty of unknowns heading into the regular season opener. After the jump, I'll take a look at what improvements/modifications to the 2012 Atlanta Falcons I'm most interested in seeing against Kansas City, and how these things pan out in Week 1.
1) The aggressive passing attack: All all-out aerial assault has never been Mike Smith's forte. Since taking over in 2008, Smitty's squads have relied on Michael Turner running the ball over and over while maintaining a good balance with Matt Ryan throwing the ball. From what we've seen in preseason, we can throw this preconceived notion out the window.
Koetter wants to throw the ball. He wants to let No. 2 unleash the passing game. How will that work, though? Since 2008, Atlanta is 5-6 when Ryan passes for 300+ yards. Not exactly the most positive stat to throw out when expecting a huge step forward in the progression of Ryan's game. Clearly this will be a different offense this year, and while I'm confident in Atlanta's ability to win by relying on Ryan throwing the ball, I'm interested to see if they can buck the trend of prior years.
2) Screens, screens and more screens: How many times have fans pleaded for the use of a screen pass in the past four seasons? Well, here you go. Koetter is going to use screen plays often, there's no doubt about that. How prepared are the Falcons, though, to successfully pull off these plays? Blocking looked shaky in practice on screens, but we witnessed solid strides in actual game action through preseason. Quizz can make a major impact on screen passes, and apparently Michael Turner can as well from the looks of it. I'm ready to see these uncharted waters breached right from the get go in Kansas City.
3) Blitzing: Nolan toned it down throughout preseason. He wasn't showing off every package and scheme he'll throw at opponents in the regular season, and I'm excited to see how he attacks Matt Cassel on Sunday. Cassel was sacked 22 times in nine games last season. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on in that front five, but they can be be susceptible to pressure at times. This will be a much more complex defense than BVG's, and I'm ready to see what they're capable of.
What new aspect of the Falcons are you most looking forward to seeing in action?