It has been often asked, what is intrigue?
I define it as that which mesmerizes the eye, exhilarates the heart, and captivates the soul. Thus, I have undertaken this onerous task to name just five Atlanta Falcons who will attempt to embody that definition in this weekend’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
QB Marcus Mariota
Not only is this weekend’s matchup important for Mariota in the sense of his grip on the Falcons' starting quarterback role, but he also figures to be integral to the team’s ability to win the game.
Mariota’s running ability could certainly be an “X-factor” for the Falcons on Sunday as they attempt to get their run game going. The 49ers have not allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in 18 games. The last one was Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, indicating how much potential damage a mobile quarterback like Mariota can do against this defense.
WR Drake London
However, when Mariota does opt to throw the ball, he should have a prime target in Drake London. 49ers starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley tore his ACL last week, and it’s London that will likely most benefit from facing his replacement. Moseley lined up exclusively on the right side of the 49ers’ defense, where he would have often come face-to-face with London, who spends the majority of his snaps lined up wide on the left side of the offense.
Now Moseley’s potential replacements in Samuel Womack or Deommodore Lenoir will have to fill those shoes. Both corners stand only 5’10”, which means the nearly 6’4” London should have an easy size advantage in their matchups.
OLB Lorenzo Carter
Another injury the Falcons should be able to take advantage of will be the one to 49ers left tackle Trent Williams. Lorenzo Carter should be the beneficiary of facing third-string tackle Jaylon Moore, who is expected to step into Williams’ vacant spot for the second week in a row due to the latter’s normal backup Colton McKivitz also being out of the lineup.
According to Pro Football Focus, Carter spends over 90 percent of his pass-rushing snaps going up against the opposing team’s left tackle. He should have numerous opportunities to use his patented bull rush against the inexperienced Moore.
ILB Troy Andersen
The Falcons will have to overcome their own injuries at linebacker with Mykal Walker being out of the lineup with a groin injury. His replacement will be Falcons second-round pick Troy Andersen, who will be making his first career start.
Walker had the “green dot” responsibilities of calling the defense, and it’s likely those duties will fall on the more experienced Rashaan Evans this week. But this weekend’s game gives a slight glimpse into the future since Andersen is likely poised to take over one of the starting inside linebacker spots full-time in 2023. This won’t be a light dipping of the toe into the water, since Andersen may find himself often matched up against one of the best tight ends in the league in George Kittle.
S Richie Grant
However, I suspect the primary responsibilities of covering Kittle may fall on another’s shoulders, that of second-year starter Richie Grant. Grant was noted for being one of the only Falcons defenders who held his own against Kyle Pitts during training camp, and that ability has seemingly carried over into the regular season.
While Grant won’t be the only Falcons defender that finds himself covering Kittle on Sunday, he may be the one expected to handle the bulk of the responsibilities. It’s important that he handles them well, given that Kittle has carved up the Falcons’ defense in his past two outings against them, putting up a combined 19 catches and 227 yards.
Can you name other Falcon players that intrigue you in this matchup?