While the Falcons defense was a shining star on Sunday night, the Matt Ryan-led offense continued to struggle in spots. Ryan had a very up-and-down evening, tossing three touchdowns but offsetting those with three interceptions.
The offensive line was OK, but the running game is still nonexistent through two games. Can the Colts defense take advantage of the slow start for the Falcons? Let’s take a look.
Note: Assessments are partially based off of PFF scores.
In the trenches
On the plus side, new guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown are playing decently for the Falcons. They’re not all stars, but they are a considerable upgrade over what was trotted out last season. Rookie Kaleb McGary has looked competent at right tackle, but has also gotten some rough matchups early this season. Alex Mack and Jake Matthews are arguably the two best starters on this line, but both guys are having relatively ugly starts to the season. I fully expect both guys to get better as they get more comfortable with the guys playing next to them.
In principle, this should be a good offensive line, but the lack of cohesion could continue to dog them for a few weeks. Until we see them deliver a strong performance, we should remain skeptical.
On the other side, the Colts defensive line is a mixed bag as well. DT Margus Hunt is more hype than actual productivity and Denico Autry is a decent starter, but not someone to dominate. On the edge, Justin Houston is still someone who can wreak havoc, while Al-Quadin Muhammad is a better run stopper than pass rusher. The Colts’ 2018 second-round draft pick Kemoko Turay is someone who could make some noise as a pass rusher, so fans should keep an eye on him.
While I think the Falcons offensive line may be more talented overall, they haven’t quite delivered on it yet in 2019. When you add in disruptive players like Justin Houston on the other side, my confidence dips further. Until we see Atlanta play to their potential, I’m going to be hesitant to give them the nod. Based on Houston and Turay, I’m hesitantly calling this a push.
The skill positions
Matt Ryan is a very good QB who needs to stop making dumb choices. He’s better than his five interceptions and I think he’ll turn his season around very soon. Thankfully, he has an explosive duo in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to make his job easier. Mohamed Sanu pitches in as a capable and physical receiver. Austin Hooper is one of the better receiving tight ends in the league, rounding out a dangerous set of receiving options. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s ground game isn’t quite up to snuff just yet. Devonta Freeman looks healthy, but his line has done him no favors. Ito Smith looks like a home run hitter, but he is also similarly hindered. At least both backs are capable receivers out of the backfield.
The Colts secondary is actually fairly good. Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin are both playing well on the outside while Quincy Wilson is not bad, though he’s off to a rough start this year. At safety, Malik Hooker is a good one, particularly in coverage, while his counterpart Clayton Geathers is having a bit of a rough start to 2019. At linebacker, the Colts may be missing their best player Darius Leonard, who is currently in the concussion protocol. After him, the quality drops off with Anthony Walker and Matthew Adams being marginal starters at best.
While the Colts secondary is fairly good, they aren’t at the level of the Vikings, though you could argue they are slightly better than what the Eagles trotted out. Darius Leonard being out will be a huge blow to the middle of their defense, though. This could be a prime opportunity for the running backs and Austin Hooper to do damage in the receiving game. Nod to the Falcons who are far more talented than their recent play suggests.
The Atlanta offensive line is the wild card here. If they can play better and continue to improve, that should give Ryan the time he needs to take advantage of some of the favorable matchups. While the Colts defensive line is not too bad, they don’t have the same quality and depth that the Vikings and Eagles had. Houston may make some noise, but he can’t do it by himself. I think the Falcons offense bounces back in this game.