You’d be forgiven if you can’t get on board with the Falcons offense against any unit. After three straight disappointing losses, the talk around Atlanta is whether they’ll win another game before the bye in week 9. Most agree that the most winnable game is against the Cardinals. Yet, is this really a favorable match up for the Falcons defense to bounce back with? Let’s take a deeper look.
Note: Assessments partially based off of PFF scores.
In the trenches
If there’s one positive out of this season, it’s in the middle of the defense. Grady Jarrett and Tyeler Davison have been stout against the run while Grady disrupts QBs and running backs at one of the highest rates in the league. Unfortunately, the edges aren’t up to par. Allen Bailey has been good in spots while Takk McKinley has disappeared in recent weeks. Vic Beasley has shown he probably wasn’t worth the guaranteed 13 million he got this year. This unit seems to be good at stopping the run, but can’t consistently pressure QBs, even against struggling offensive lines.
The Cardinals OL has some weak spots that can be attacked. Center A.Q. Shipley is struggling this year as is right tackle Justin Murray. Guards J.R. Sweezy and Justin Pugh are playing well enough and left tackle D.J. Humphries is having a good season as well. To be blunt, this unit compares with the Texans OL, so take that for what you will.
Honestly, after what we saw against the Texans, I’m not sure that the Falcons will take advantage of some of those weak spots. Yet, those spots are there and someone like Jarrett can take advantage of it. This should go in the Falcons favor, but recent performances cause this hesitation.
The skill positions
The Falcons linebackers are basically Deion Jones and a bunch of guys struggling. Debo is still great, but De’Vondre Campbell has been struggling. Foye Oluokun is playing ok, but isn’t much better. One has to wonder if Jermaine Grace may get some looks if these struggles continue. Right now, the Falcons secondary is a bit of a mess. Isaiah Oliver often looks lost. Desmond Trufant has been ok, but has been burnt too much for an experienced corner. Ricardo Allen and Kemal Ishmael aren’t doing much better at the top. This is a unit that is struggling, as evidenced by the record passing game they gave up to Deshaun Watson last week.
Kyler Murray may be a rookie, but he’s not a complete disaster, which means he could look like an All-Pro against this Falcons defense. David Johnson is still a quality running back and tight ends Charles Clay and Maxx Williams are a nice duo. Larry Fitzgerald can still play - which is amazing - while rookie Keesean Johnson is having a slow start to his rookie season. This is not exactly a dynamic unit just yet, but you can see the potential they have.
Truthfully, the Falcons secondary has been making sub-par receivers look like fantasy football studs. Until they can stop this horrid trend, they won’t get the benefit of the doubt here. Prove us wrong, Falcons.
This Dan Quinn defense has been a disaster in recent weeks and after giving up 47 offensive points last week, they do not get the benefit of the doubt going forward. This Cardinals offense should be stoppable, but there are reasons to be concerned. An athletic rookie QB could look to this game as one to boost his confidence with. As I said before, prove us wrong Falcons. Until then, we’re going to favor almost every offense against you.