The Atlanta Falcons, once again, have started off a season slowly, this time with a sloppy performance against the Seattle Seahawks. It’s certainly understandable to see some rust from any NFL team with no preseason, but the Falcons are already in a near must-win situation going in to play the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium. That’s because starting 0-2 will already put them in a hole when it comes to their division as well as playoff contention, and that’s a hole very few teams climb out of.
Who will we need to keep an eye on to help the Falcons carry out a win today?
The defense had an extremely sloppy start in all aspects against Seattle.
Coach Morris interestingly said that he didn’t focus enough on the Seahawks’ passing game as he should have, which is an interesting statement to say the least. How he prepares his defensive unit to play against the Cowboys will be something critical to watch, as Dallas has a good amount of star power with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Vanilla schemes won’t do against this Cowboys offense.
Will Coach Morris have the defense primed for a bounce back game, ironing out the problems they faced a week ago? It will certainly be a determining factor in this game and it will be important to disguise coverages against Prescott in a way they didn’t against Wilson.
This could be stated for the entire defensive backfield, but Neal is an integral part of the unit. It’s absolutely understandable that Neal was going to have a slow start considering he’s missed the 2018 season and the majority of the 2019 season. It wasn’t his best game against Seattle.
However, he’s an integral part of this defense, and if his level of play begins to progress, so will the secondary. If Neal can make his presence known in both the run and pass game for the defense, it bodes will for the outcome of the game. We know he’s capable of doing so, and now would be the right time to see it.
Jake Matthews (or Matt Gono) and Kaleb McGary
The Seattle Seahawks don’t have the best rotation on the EDGE or on the defensive line as a whole, but the Cowboys have some straight beasts on theirs. The Falcons offensive line held up pretty well but was not without its struggles, so it’s rational to exhibit some worry going against this defensive line.
Jake Matthews is questionable going into this game, so there is the prospect that it might just fall on Gono to protect Ryan’s blindside. Against the likes of Demarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen, the OTs need to show some improvement to keep Ryan upright in the passing game, and if Gono has to start that’s obviously a larger worry. Now, if Koetter is smart, he will show more 12 Personnel to help one side or the other in protection, but I’m not willing to place that bet. Either way, how the offensive line performs will be key to how the offense moves today.
Dante Fowler, Jr and Takk McKinley
Equally as important is how the EDGE rushers for the Falcons affect Dak Prescott. La’el Collins is already listed as out for the Cowboys and Tyron Smith is listed as questionable with a neck injury. Even if Smith plays, this is a clear opportunity for Fowler and McKinley to have a huge impact on the game.
Prescott, although he has quality mobility, is nowhere near as mobile and swift as Russell Wilson, so the Falcons have a huge opportunity here in regards to affecting the passing game. If there’s ever a time for the Falcons rushers to eat, this is it, and they might have their easiest matchup all year if both starting tackles are out.
What I’m truly looking for here is how the Falcons refocus after a sloppy loss. One game certainly doesn’t make a season, but there were some familiar trends shown in week one that need to be quickly addressed. We will see if they can bounce back from Seattle and even their record today.