The 0-2 Falcons are dead last in the league in defense and you can probably tell where this article is already headed. All of the goodwill that the defensive unit garnered in the back half of 2019 has been squandered in performances that gave up 38 and 40 points in back-to-back weeks. While there have been glimpses of improvement, such as with the pass rush and some specific players, the overall unit does not deserve to be trusted and the upcoming match up with the Bears does not look promising. Let’s break it down.
In the trenches
The Falcons have some good news in this segment of the defense. Grady Jarrett is off to a uncharacteristically slow start, but figures to bounce back soon. Takk McKinley has been a revelation this year, generating pressure regularly and showing significant development. Let’s hope he’s healthy enough to play. Dante Fowler Jr. is an upgrade over Vic Beasley, but has yet to really put in a big performance. John Cominsky has shown some incredible flashes but needs to keep it up for four full quarters. Tyeler Davison has actually been a really reliable part of the inside and may be the most consistent player for the Falcons right now. This unit has talent but should be playing better overall.
Unlike the last two weeks, the Bears offensive line does not have a lot of stars but they also don’t have a lot of terrible weaknesses. Charles Leno Jr. at LT is a very good pass blocker as is Bobby Massie on the right side. Cody Whitehair anchors the middle and could be someone Grady looks to take advantage of. The two guards - James Daniels and Germain Ifedi - are playing ok, with Daniels being a better run blocker and Ifedi a better pass blocker. Again, this is not a great unit, but they don’t have a deeply flawed player either. Compared to the first two weeks of the season, this unit is an upgrade over those.
Much will depend on the health of Takk McKinley and Dante Fowler. If these guys are fully healthy, there’s probably some hope of this being a wash. However, Takk has a history of struggling with injuries and if he’s out or limited, the entire unit will suffer. Given that, the Bears get the slight nod here.
The skill positions
Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun are the sole bright spots on the back end. Jones is our best coverage player while Oluokun is having his best season ever as a pro, forcing 3 fumbles in week 2. His health is a concern and if he’s not available, Debo becomes the lone dependable player on the back end. Woof. Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal are both having terrible seasons so far and one has to wonder if their injuries the last two years are just too much to overcome. The young corners - Isaiah Oliver and A.J. Terrell - both show promise, but they’re too inconsistent, though Terrell had a strong game in week 2. Damontae Kazee has been playing more than Rico and is playing ok, but has had some rough moments. Nickel corner Darqueze Denard can play better than he currently is. And the team needs him to.
QB Mitch Trubisky is a bit of lightning rod, but he’s off to a solid start in 2020. He’s an elusive QB, which doesn’t bode well for Atlanta. Rookie WR Darnell Mooney is off to a good start opposite Allen Robinson, who is a good WR, if not particularly intimidating. At tight end, Jimmy Graham is more name than talent at this point while David Montgomery is coming into his own as a runner in year 2. They also have Tarik Cohen at RB, who is not the same guy he was as a rookie, but still has the ability to shake defenders. This is not a dominant offense, but it is at minimum, an average one.
It’s painful to say, but this average Chicago offense outmatches the Falcons defense based on their current level of play. Atlanta should be capable of far better and they could surprise us, but nothing about the first two weeks should give us any confidence of that happening.
While I don’t think the Bears offense is nearly as talented as the two Atlanta has already faced, they are a unit that should be good enough to take advantage of the worst defense in the league. Atlanta should be better, but right now they just aren’t. With some key players likely to miss time or at minimum play injured, I don’t have much hope that the bleeding will stop on Sunday.