Given their impressive 3-3 start to the 2022 season, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding the Atlanta Falcons. It continues to be my responsibility to name five Falcons who are among the most intriguing heading into their Week 7 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
This week’s group features players looking to maintain momentum, avenge past wrongs from current Bengals, and to prove themselves to the wider world at large.
QB Marcus Mariota
Coming off his best performance of the year against the San Francisco 49ers, Mariota is one of those players looking to keep the positive vibes going against the Bengals. He showcased efficiency last week by completing 93 percent of his passes, but more importantly, did not turn the ball over for the second week in a row.
Can he do it a third time? If so, then that’s a winning formula for a conservative Falcons offensive attack predicated on a commanding ground game.
OT Jake Matthews
A Falcon seeking redemption will be left tackle Jake Matthews, who will see plenty of Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Back in 2019 and 2020 when Hendrickson played for the New Orleans Saints, he seemed to get the better of Matthews on multiple occasions. Across his final three games against the Falcons in those years, Hendrickson tallied four sacks and seven quarterback hits, most coming against Matthews. Hendrickson proved capable of overwhelming Matthews with his power.
If there’s any chance that Mariota will have another efficient day passing, it will rest on Matthews’ ability to redeem those past struggles versus Hendrickson.
OLB Arnold Ebiketie
After recording a team-high five pressures last week against the 49ers, the question surrounding Arnold Ebiktie is similar to that of Mariota: can he do it again? All of Ebiketie’s production last week came against San Francisco’s backup tackles stepping in for their injured starters. Ebiketie won’t have the same luck this week with both Bengals starters in Jonah Williams and La’el Collins healthy.
Fortunately for Ebiketie, neither Cincinnati tackle is off to the most impressive start this year, and thus they are vulnerable for the young Falcons upstart to take advantage of. The Falcons need to uncover a secondary pass-rusher beyond Grady Jarrett to provide some steady pressure, and now is the time for Ebiketie to shine.
CB Darren Hall
Stepping in for an injured Casey Hayward at the cornerback spot opposite A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall will have a significant challenge on Sunday squaring off against Bengals wideouts Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. The Higgins matchup could be especially challenging given that at 6’4”, Higgins is nearly a half-foot taller than Hall.
Giving up so much size could create problems for Hall. But if he’s up for the challenge, then it will mean positive things for his long-term future in Atlanta as a potential starter.
CB A.J. Terrell
Of course, Terrell gets a mention due to the fact that Chase is lined up on the opposite side. For anyone that needs a refresher, the two went head-to-head in the Clemson-LSU National Title game three years ago, and Chase got the better of Terrell to the tune of nine catches, 221 yards, and two touchdowns. It led to many questioning Terrell’s initial selection as the Falcons’ top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft due to the perception of how one-sided that affair went. However, Terrell did start that game very strong, blanketing Chase early on before things went sideways.
I fully expect Terrell to have a chip on his shoulder and channel his early-game performance toward seeking redemption this Sunday. Given that the Falcons have shown a ton of confidence in Terrell’s ability to shadow No. 1 receivers, I expect them to continue that practice against the Bengals on Sunday.
Naming five Falcons is a daunting feat, but I feel I have done my duty in accomplishing it. Can you name others that intrigue you in this Bengals matchup?