It’s no great secret that the Falcons haven’t looked as good against the run of late, having erased a lot of early season goodwill with an embarrassing performance against Ryan Mathews and the Eagles.
It’s also no great secret why: The defense just isn’t that great yet, and the interior of the defensive line has been a huge trouble spot outside of Grady Jarrett. Ra’Shede Hageman has contributed some solid games, but Jonathan Babineaux unfortunately looks pretty close to cooked, and Tyson Jackson simply isn’t playing very well, either. The Eagles were able to exploit that (and the team’s linebackers) again and again.
Unfortunately, the sledding isn’t going to magically get easier in the weeks ahead, as you can see below.
Week 12: David Johnson
Week 13: Spencer Ware
Week 14: Todd Gurley
Week 15: Carlos Hyde
Week 16: Jonathan Stewart
Week 17: Mark Ingram
Not every running back in that grouping is elite, but Johnson is, and Ware, Gurley, Hyde, Ingram and Stewart are all physical runners who can wear down a defense. The Falcons should be able to win at least three of the games on that slate, given the quality of their opponents, but their alarming inability to stop the run does mean things might be more tense than they need to be, at minimum.
What can the Falcons do? Unfortunately, they can’t count on major improvement from a defensive line that isn’t well-stocked with young players on the rise, and even the team’s promising young linebackers probably aren’t going to dramatically raise their level of play just because they’ve had a week of rest. The best the team can hope for is modest improvement, a little more discipline with assignments, and the kinds of leads that force teams to abandon the run.
There’s also the power of prayer, which might be the only thing that’s going to stop David Johnson.