Once again, it’s time to name five Atlanta Falcons players that are worth keeping an eye on when the team travels to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.
And to keep things moving, I’ll try to mention five different names than I did a week ago.
RB Tyler Allgeier
The Falcons likely will lean heavily on their run game as part of their game plan. But with backup running back Damien Williams out with a rib injury, Allgeier will likely get the call up after being a surprise inactive last week.
The Falcons ran Cordarrelle Patterson a career-high 22 times in Week 1 against the Saints, and they’ll need to find ways to keep the 31-year-old weapon fresher as the rest of the season unfolds. That means Allgeier should make his NFL debut this week in Los Angeles, and how effective he is could determine a lot of the team’s success on the ground.
LG Elijah Wilkinson
Allgeier’s production will hinge heavily on the run blocking up front, but for the moment, I’m much more concerned about the team’s pass protection. Wilkinson graded out as the Falcons' best pass protector a week ago against the Saints, earning an 81.3 grade from PFF. It was a very promising start for the veteran, who was getting his first action at left guard ever in his career. But he of course will be tasked with an even greater challenge this week, squaring off against Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald moves around the Rams front quite a bit, so no blocker will be safe come Sunday. But Wilkinson, along with right guard Chris Lindstrom, will likely see him the most. Lindstrom, of course, has proven himself as a top-notch blocker over the past two seasons. Wilkinson has not, and how well he holds up will be critical to the Falcons' success in Week 2.
OLB Lorenzo Carter
On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage is our next player to watch. Carter lined up on the right side of the Falcons' defensive line on 87.5 percent of his pass-rush snaps in Week 1 according to PFF. That means he faced the opposing left tackle the vast majority of the time. We watched Rams left tackle Joe Noteboom give up a league-high eight pressures in their season-opening loss to the Bills.
Recent reports indicate that Noteboom is expected to play despite dealing with a knee injury, but that ailment means he is ripe for the picking. If the Falcons are going to be able to provide reliable pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford this week, it will be Carter’s duty to make sure Noteboom has another bad week.
CB Mike Ford & CB Dee Alford
The last players worth watching are nickel cornerbacks in Ford and Alford. Which of the two we see more on Sunday against the Rams, however, remains an open question. In Week 1, both players split nickel reps, with Alford earning 21 snaps and Ford 17 on defense.
But what was notable about their Week 1 split was (per PFF) 61 percent of Alford’s snaps came when the Falcons deployed man coverage, while 73 percent of Ford’s came in zone. The Rams were among the best teams in the NFL against man coverage in 2021, prompting their opponents to lean heavily on zone coverage to slow down their offense.
No QB is better targeting man-coverage than Matthew Stafford pic.twitter.com/35SlJK79D6— PFF (@PFF) February 5, 2022
If that is the case again this week, that could lead to Ford getting more snaps than Alford. Alford was one of the stars of training camp and seems to be the better individual matchup against Kupp. But regardless of how the Falcons decide to split up reps at nickel, covering Kupp will be far from an easy task. That’s especially true in the red zone, where Kupp does a lot of damage. That might be where Alford has a chance to stand out, since the Falcons prefer to play more man coverage when opponents get closer to the end zone.
Which of these five Falcons will you be focused on? Who are some other players that intrigue you to watch come Sunday’s matchup against the Rams?