The Falcons need to win tonight to stay out of the NFC South’s basement with the 0-2 Carolina Panthers. The loss to the Minnesota Vikings was rough, so we could really put anyone on this list, from players up to coaches. However, these are the most important players to watch today.
Atlanta’s most expensive free agent has finally made his way into the starting lineup, thanks entirely to a Chris Lindstrom’s broken foot. He was switched to left guard and failed to earn the starting spot. He has returned to his natural position at right guard, which should help. The Eagles are down starter Malik Jackson, but still have Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan in the middle. Jake Matthews should bounce back, and impressive Kaleb McGary should play more snaps this week, leaving the biggest offensive line question mark at right guard.
I have seen enough of Vic Beasley. I think it is pretty clear who he is and who is not. McKinley, however, is in his third season. This is a typical breakout year for defensive linemen. The Falcons desperately need someone to create pressure off the edge, and after last week, at least one defender who can set the edge in the run game. Beasley is not doing either. This week, we expect Jack Crawford to get more snaps with Grady Jarrett. That’s a formidable duo who could use even the slightest big of help. McKinley has to be that player.
It has been two long seasons since we have seen Freeman at full speed and full effectiveness. Freeman is trying to do something that is unprecedented: Return to Pro Bowl form after two injury-plagued seasons where he missed 16 total games. The Vikings have a stout defense but he put up below mediocre numbers both in the run game and catching the ball. For better or worse, Dan Quinn is trying to put a bigger emphasis on running the ball. That included a slew of new offensive lineman, running backs, and a fullback. He needs to perform and help get the offense moving.
Every Single Coach
Typically, I like to find a coach that failed to live up to expectations. The first few minutes of the Vikings game requires us to keep an eye on Dan Quinn, Dirk Koetter, and Ben Kotwica. The defense was back at full health yet appeared worse than last season. The offense was full of head-scratching decisions. Even special teams failed with a blocked punt, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The team needs the coaches to settle in more than any single player.