Julio Jones and Roddy White both spoke to the media prior to practice today, as did Jacquizz Rodgers and Lamar Holmes. What's on the players' minds as they look toward this week one matchup with their NFC South opponent, the New Orleans Saints?
Perspectives on facing a division opponent week one:
Julio Jones: I mean, it doesn't matter. We're going to have to play them anyway, you know? It's good for us, too, though. We're just going to get a win out of the way-a divisional game out the way, and we win, we're up in the division. But we've got to see where we're at. Last year wasn't a season we like to have, and we've just got to get back out there this season and start over.
Roddy White: I think last year was perfectly fine when we had to go to New Orleans right off the bat. It kind of speeds up the tempo and everything at practice, and everybody's locked in-everybody's geared in. And you need that kind of focus during week one. We kind of had those games where we played Kansas City and stuff like that, we kind of just got in the groove as the week of practice went along. But since we know we're playing the Saints, everything's been zoom focus. Everybody's been on time and doing whatever they need to do and getting in extra work and everything-preparing themselves and prepping themselves for this game. So I think that was really good.
On facing the New Orleans defense:
Lamar Holmes: My first NFL match was against Cameron Jordan, he and Nix, and in the second game, I was more matched up against Galette. From both of them I learned that I've just got to have good steps and good hand placement, because last year, my steps were not always good-were not always on point, and I would get myself in trouble sometimes. So it's just-going into this game, I'm just focusing on my hands and my feet, just relying on those to do the work for me.
Jacquizz Rodgers: We've got to do a great job of communicating and identifying personnel so everybody can be on the same page and we can block them up, give Matt time to throw, give us time to--room to run a ball.
Julio Jones: They're a great defense overall. First of all, their line, they get pressure on the quarterback. They're very athletic in the secondary. We've just got to pick our spots and connect on them.
They've got a great secondary. A great secondary. Like I said, we're just going to have to pick our points and pick our man and make plays on them. They're very talented in that secondary.
Roddy White: We've played against [Rob Ryan] when he's coached other teams and things like that, so we've had some success. He likes to mix it up and do different things and blitz certain people, and he has all these packages and things he likes to do. But we've just got to go out there and just be us. At the same time, they've got to stop us. We've got a lot of playmakers and things like that. So we've just got to go out there and do what we do and not really concern ourselves with what they're doing. Let them make adjustments to what we're doing and just roll like that.
On the importance of getting off to a fast start and setting the tone offensively:
Roddy White: We've just got to get back to what we're used to doing, that's scoring points and going out there and getting off to fast starts. I don't think last year we did that too often, and that's been our trademark around here for the last seven years, just going out there and getting off to fast starts and just letting people play catch up, where our D could go out there and put their heads back and shoot and get turnovers and things like that. So this year, that's what we want to do. We're going to get back to what we do, and just go out there-it's important for us to get off to fast starts, and we're going to do that.
Lamar Holmes: [What we hope to get out of the first drive is] a touchdown. That's the main thing-it's the tempo for the game. We go out there and do it like we've been doing all preseason, getting to get a touchdown on the first drive, that sets the tempo and we'll just keep building off of that.
On whether or not people are underestimating the Falcons:
Roddy White: I don't think they've forgotten about us. I just think the NFL is year to year, so when you have one off season, it's like you're back at square one. So we like our position--where we're at. We can go out there and just play. We don't have any pressure on us-no Super Bowl aspirations and stuff like that that people put on your back, and then you've got to go out there and win 19 games in a row. So we're just going to go in there, and it's the first regular season [game], it's a very important division game, and it's going to be good to get off to a good start.
On the running backs:
Jacquizz Rodgers: It's a unique group. We've got different types of guys with different abilities that do different things. So everybody will have their chance to do what they're good at and get put in a position to make plays.
On the receivers:
Julio Jones: All of us, we know what we've got to do. We play for each other. That's the best thing about being on this team and just being in the receiver room. We just play for each other. We don't put any added pressure on each other-on someone and be like, "Hey, you didn't do this-you need to do that." We know what we need to do in our room, and we're going to go out there and make plays.
Roddy White: Our depth is incredible, especially right now. We've got so many guys that can go out there and make plays, you know? We've just got to find a way to get them all the ball. And that's a good problem to have. So I'm excited, man. I'm super-excited to see what we can do. They're going to have a plan for us, and we're going to have a plan for them. We're going to get out there and do what we do, and get in our wide receiver sets and try to throw the ball around and do a little bit of that, mix in a run here and there, and just stay within the plan that's been working throughout the preseason and just continue to get better.
On dealing with double coverage:
Julio Jones: I'm doing my job. I'm helping my teammates out. And they know I'm going to have double coverage, and I expect to have double coverage. If not, I'm going to go out there and make some plays, make something happen. But I've got to take my job seriously in those situations. I can't go out there and take plays off because I'm not getting the ball. I've still got to go out there and run full speed to draw that coverage.
On the offensive line:
Jacquizz Rodgers: Everybody's coming together well. The guys are doing a great job. We all work hard together and do a great job of opening holes and giving Matt time to throw the ball. So I think it's a great group.
Lamar Holmes: ...I know more than what I knew last season. I gained some wisdom from last season. I had some ups and downs last season. I took some losses-I had a couple of wins, but from looking back on last season, I was able to build from that season on to this season. Now we've got Coach Tice, and I'm building even more. So I feel good about going into this season.
On being prepared and at full strength for this season:
Roddy White: It's the best. It's the best. I mean, anytime you go into the offseason and you focus on just getting your body right-this was the first actual year that was my complete focus, just to get through everything healthy and get to the first game where I can be myself and just go out there and play. So it's been good. It's been a different approach for the first time, but at the same time, it's been really good. We had a really good training camp session, and we went through that, and everything was cool, and we're ready to play games.
Julio Jones: The key is to keep us healthy. Last year we weren't healthy as a football team-we didn't do a good job last year. So the key is just staying healthy, man. I'm glad to be back out there with those guys. I'm healthy, Roddy's healthy, Harry, then you've got Devin Hester as well. Eric Weems, all of those-we're going to go out there and make some plays.
On Hard Knocks:
Julio Jones: I didn't watch that stuff. No. Seriously. I don't-that's why people are like, "Where you at? Where you at? Why weren't you on camera? Why weren't you on camera?" I'm like-I don't do that stuff, man. They'd be like, "Hey, do you want to get mic'ed up today?" I'd be like, "Not really." I really don't-I'm just laid back and chilled. I don't want to be in the limelight like that.