Our last entry in this series for the 2020 season (and probably for this entire coaching staff) has us revisiting an opponent from two weeks ago and a quarterback who haunts our nightmares. The first game was a frustrating mix of success and abject failure. Will this go-round be different? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
Raheem Morris recently called out Dante Fowler for basically being a massive let-down this year. To be frank, outside of Grady Jarrett this entire defensive line has been a massive disappointment. To that point, Deion Jones currently leads the team in sacks with 4.5 (Jarrett has 4). Guys like Steven Means and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner are decent rotational guys at best but this is a position group that needs to be addressed aggressively over the next couple of years.
Tampa has a good offensive line, but Jarrett was able to abuse the interior somewhat in the first game. The tackles - Donovan Smith and rookie Tristan Wirfs - are unlikely to give up a ton of pressure to the sub-par Atlanta unit. Any damage to be done will be against center Ryan Jensen and right guard Alex Cappa. This is Atlanta’s best hope to pressure Brady and it worked somewhat well in the first half two weeks ago by blitzing and mixing up the pressure packages. The problem is making it stick for four quarters.
The big problem for Atlanta is that the Bucs have seen the mix of pressure packages now and they were able to adjust in just one half of football. Unless the Falcons defy their recent trends, this one goes to Tampa.
The skill positions
Limiting the Patrick Mahomes Chiefs to only 17 points was a bright spot in the loss last Sunday. That said, if A.J. Terrell wants to go from good to great, he needs to pull down these “near interceptions” he now seems to be capable of every game. Those plays could be difference makers. The play of Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and rookie Mykal Walker have been pleasant surprises this year as all started off the season pretty rough. Isaiah Oliver has also improved as the season has progressed and is one of our better open field tacklers at this point. I have a decent amount of confidence in the back half of this unit, particularly for the long-term.
That said, they’re facing a murderers row of weapons that includes Mike Evans and Chris Godwin - maybe one of the best 1-2 receiver duos in the league. Cameron Brate and Rob Gronkowski also make up one of the best 1-2 tight end duos in the league. Running back Ronald Jones is a quality player in the backfield and oh yeah, they have future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady tossing them the ball.
As much as I love what Atlanta has done on defense in recent weeks, this one just feels lopsided and recent history suggests this game probably won’t be any different.
Perhaps in the near future Atlanta will invest wisely into the defensive line and find a way to generate pressure without leaning exclusively on blitzes and disguises. Until then, this unit may be over-performing their talent level up front which is never a long-term formula for success.