Here are some key takeaways and worthwhile comments from this Wednesday’s Dan Quinn press conference. As you’d expect, he ended up talking a lot about injuries and the offense.
How the Falcons will weather injuries
Against Carolina, Atlanta’s job certainly got much more difficult with injuries to Deion Jones and Keanu Neal. Dan Quinn (and the team’s recently released depth chart) confirmed that Duke Riley will be at middle linebacker and Damontae Kazee will start at safety, which is more or less what we all expected.
The hard part is dealing with this offense. Christian McCaffrey is fast and difficult to bring down, and Cam Newton is always a load to deal with for this light and quick Falcons defense. Without two of their better tacklers, the Falcons more or less have to trust their very strong secondary to cover Carolina’s lackluster passing game options and focus on stopping those two players. We’ll find out quickly enough if Kazee, Ricardo Allen, Foye Oluokun and Duke Riley are capable of doing so.
Devonta Freeman “day-to-day”
As anticipated, Freeman’s sitting out practice today.
Devonta Freeman (knee) sitting out Wednesday https://t.co/bCeQ5s1jIV— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) September 12, 2018
We’ve heard this one before. Freeman’s injury status has been a source of speculation all week, and at this point, I’m not going to count on him playing Sunday against the Panthers. If that’s the case, I’d expect Tevin Coleman to absolutely dominate touches, with Ito Smith picking up some early down and third down work in relief, and Brian Hill working in short yardage and goal line situations if Coleman needs a breather. I’d be pleasantly surprised if the Falcons could bring Free to bear, but I’m definitely not counting on it.
Re-affirms support for Sark
It’s possible that the Falcons will abandon Sark and quietly replace him with Greg Knapp at some point this season. I’m not going to rule that out, but I am going to say that Dan Quinn has been adamant that he was happy with the play calling against the Eagles, and he reiterated that on Wednesday.
Quinn was pleased with Sark's play-calling. Said it was a lack of execution. Added that #Falcons play their best when they are balanced w/ run & pass.— Mark Zinno (@MarkZinno) September 12, 2018
There are two layers here. The first is that Quinn is hanging a lot at the feet of the players, which seems pretty justified after Matt Ryan had a nuclear meltdown against the Eagles and the offense struggled so mightily. That does ignore Sark’s miscues, especially on that final series of the game, but it’s not super surprising to hear him gloss over that at the moment. The problem will be if Ryan’s much better this week, the offense looks springier in general, and bad play calls cost this team again.
The second takeaway is that DQ is taking a bit of a shot at Sark, after all, by talking about balance. The Falcons were anything but against the Eagles, choosing to run the ball way too infrequently in a close game and airing it out with a clearly shaky Ryan instead. That’ll have to change going forward, even if Freeman’s out.