The Falcons defense has been hit hard by injuries early. Losing Pro-Bowlers Deion Jones and Keanu Neal has put a hamper on the lofty top-5 expectations many had. Those injuries, however, have not yet impacted the Falcons defensive front. Yet, of any unit on this defense, this is the one that came into the season with the most question marks. Many are optimistic that this defensive line can turn into a great one, but the assurances were far from certain.
Beat up the backups
This Sunday, they will get an opportunity to prove they can be dominant when they face off against a decimated Carolina Panthers offensive line that has already lost 3 starters to injury. Starting left tackle Matt Kalil was put on IR in the preseason, while starting right tackle Daryl Williams was put there after game one. Guard Trai Turner was a surprise entry to the injury list this week with a concussion and he will not be playing Sunday.
This was an offensive line that was already struggling to replace Pro Bowl guard Andrew Norwell, who left in free agency. Matt Kalil was no one’s idea of a good left tackle to begin with, so replacing him with someone who qualified only as his backup is almost certainly a downgrade.
When you add in the fact that Cam Newton’s safety valve - TE Greg Olsen - is also out of the game, you have a recipe for dominance. That is, so long as the Falcons can take advantage of it.
Live up to the hype
There’s reason to be hopeful. Vic Beasley led the league in sacks in 2016 and he has elite level quickness off the line. Takk McKinley came on strong at the end of his rookie year, and looked disruptive against a very good Eagles offensive line last week. Grady Jarrett is quickly becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and was giving Jason Kelce more than he could handle at times. Guys like Terrell McClain, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby and Jack Crawford figure to be in the mix as well.
But let’s be honest: this is absolutely a match-up they need to dominate. One or two sacks will not cut it on Sunday. The Panthers are effectively starting 3 backups, with two of those being at both tackle positions. In particular, Beasley and McKinley really need to show up in a big way on Sunday. This is as good an opportunity as they will get this year and if they can’t take advantage of it, fans will rightly question if this defensive line is nothing by hype.
What’s your take? Will this defensive front dominate on Sunday? How many times will they put Cam Newton on the ground?
Falcons vs Panthers: How many times will Cam be sacked?
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9+ DEAR GOD