The Falcons face a very difficult road test when they take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Despite the rough start to the season, the Falcons appeared to have a slight advantage when comparing their offense to the Raiders defense. Today, we’ll take a look at how the Falcons defense matches up against the Raiders offense.
In the Trenches
To be honest, the Falcons front probably scares no team in the league right now. The unit failed to register a single sack against the Bucs, who featured a suspect offensive line. Dwight Freeney will always present a threat as a pass rusher, but age may be his biggest obstacle right now. Vic Beasley is still wildly inconsistent, and looked lost against the Bucs on Sunday. Grady Jarrett is playing well, but has little help on the interior with players like Derrick Shelby and Tyson Jackon providing very little penetration. This unit absolutely needs to play better, and if our younger players can’t step up, this will be a very long day.
On the opposite side, the Raiders are fielding a pretty good offensive line. Donald Penn has been a consistently good tackle on the blindside. Kelechi Osemele has also been good on the interior next to Penn. Rodney Hudson at center isn’t blowing the doors off, but also isn’t a liability. While RG Gabe Jackson had a rough day against the Saints, he’s an otherwise decent player. The only notably weak spot on the line is RT Menelik Watson, which the Falcons will no doubt try to expose on Sunday.
To be honest, I wish this match up was closer, but it really isn’t. Until Beasley shows he can play with some consistency and our interior line can consistently get some push, this match up heavily favors the Raiders.
The Skill Positions
The Raiders have an up and coming QB in Derek Carr, who is already playing at a high-level in 2016. Amari Cooper is a good receiver who still hasn’t reached his peak, while Michael Crabtree is a veteran receiver who never quite lived up to his potential. In the backfield, Latavius Murray is decent but isn’t a breakout player. Second year tight end Clive Walford is intriguing, but has yet to fully deliver on his potential. Overall, this is a young unit with tons of upside left to explore. They showed how dangerous they can be against the Saints last weekend, so don’t sleep on their potential to put up a bunch of points.
The Falcons have one of the better cover corners in the league in Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford is decent when he’s not drawing idiotic penalties. Brian Poole as the nickel corner is still an unknown. Ricardo Allen is a capable free safety, but isn’t wowing anybody while Kemal Ishmael should really be on the bench, but is our starter until Keanu Neal can return from injury. The most intriguing players are De’Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones, the rookie linebackers with speed for days. Both have shown flashes of competence, but also displayed rookie mistakes on Sunday.
The Falcons D doesn’t inspire confidence right now, especially with how they played on Sunday against the Bucs. There’s some potential for the Falcons to succeed, especially if Trufant can consistently match up with Cooper, but the home team definitely has the advantage here as well.
Many fans thought the Falcons defense would take a big step forward this year, including yours truly. The first game failed to show that, and until they can prove that they know how to tackle and eliminate dumb penalties, they won’t get the benefit of the doubt. The Raiders are fielding a young and exciting offense, being lead by one of the better young QBs in the NFL. The Falcons have the potential to make this interesting, but the initial analysis says the Raiders have a clear advantage overall.