We had the opportunity to ask Ed Valentine of Big Blue View five questions in the run-up to Sunday's game against the Giants, a game most Falcons fans are profoundly worried about. His answers follow.
Dave Choate: Eli Manning and the offense look rejuvenated the last two weeks in Ben McAdoo's system. Is this the start of something beautiful for you guys, or part of the roller coaster ride for the offense?
Ed Valentine: There are never any guarantees, of course, but Giants fans have to feel very good about what has happened offensive for, really, the past three weeks. Manning is being given time to throw by his rebuilt and improving offensive line, and for the past two weeks he has been putting the ball on a string. He has made several throws where I've just looked and said, 'wow, the ball can't be thrown better than that.'
I am sure there will be ups and downs -- Manning is always capable of doing something incomprehensible -- but he has adapted to the system nicely. Best of all, though, the offensive line is keeping him comfortable.
Dave Choate: The Falcons have been able to pile up the yards and scores on offense this season, but quality defenses can slow them down enough to get the win. How should we expect the Giants to attack this Falcons team, and who will be the key players involved in that effort?
Ed Valentine: Well, I am very anxious to see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara, as good a set of corners as I believe there are in the league right now, against Julio Jones and Roddy White. With the corners they have the Giants play much more man-to-man than they have in the past.
The Giants defensive line has proven deep and talented thus far, and you will see a rotation of guys with Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore, Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers at the ends. The best defensive tackle is second-year man Johnathan Hankins.
The Giants will be looking to force the issue, and to force mistakes.
Dave Choate: To circle back to the offense for a moment, how will the Giants split carries between Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, and what can the Falcons do to stop the run. They haven't been able to thus far, so "pray for a miracle" is an acceptable answer.
Ed Valentine: Jennings is the clear No. 1 back. In the must-win game against the Texans when the Giants were 0-2 he carried 34 times. The duties were split more Thursday against the Redskins because it was only four days later, and because that game turned into a blowout.
The Giants have run the ball well the past two or three weeks. They won't hit the long home run with the run, but they can stay ahead of the chains and make defenses respect the run so they can't just go after Manning.
Dave Choate: Who are the young players we ought to be looking out for come Sunday, and what kind of impact have they had thus far?
Ed Valentine: First is Hankins, the second-year defensive tackle. The Giants let Linval Joseph go to clear a spot for him and he has been terrific. Damontre Moore is a second-year player who is developing as a pass rusher and is a terror on special teams. He blocked a punt against the Texans and he will block one Sunday if you don't make sure you pay attention to him. On offense, Richburg has moved in at left guard and is improving quickly. He was drafted as a center and is playing guard out of necessity. He has gotten better every week.
Dave Choate: Do you have a sense of how this game will go, and to look further ahead, your entire season?
Ed Valentine: I think this game will say a lot about how the season will go for the Giants. They have divisional road games against the Eagles and Cowboys following this one, so it's one they really have to win. I expect to see the Giants play well. It would be disturbing to see them take a step back after the progress they have made since the season opener -- a blowout loss to Detroit.