I’m normally not the superstitious sort. But last week, Desmond Ridder’s name was not on this list, and it resulted in the best game of his career. So in the hopes that we get a repeat performance, I will be ignoring Ridder and scouring the rest of the Atlanta Falcons roster to try and name five other Falcons that are intriguing in their upcoming Week 6 matchup versus the Washington Commanders.
Number-one receivers have had a field day against the Commanders this season, and Drake London is potentially the next one in line. In the past three weeks, D.J. Moore, A.J. Brown, and Stefon Diggs have each caught at least eight passes for over 100 receiving yards against this Commanders defense.
London was kept in check the last time the Falcons faced the Commanders a year ago, with just two catches for 29 yards. But he hopes to build off a strong finish to last week’s win against the Houston Texans. London was dominant down the stretch last Sunday, with all six of his catches coming on the team’s final three possessions. Extending that production for all four quarters this Sunday could lead to another dominant day for the Falcons’ number-one wideout.
Another player looking to take advantage of opportunities against the Commanders will be running back Bijan Robinson. The Commanders’ run defense hasn’t been particularly stout this year, which could lead to Robinson and the rest of the Falcons rushing attack having a big day on the ground.
Also, the Commanders have concerns at linebacker, where starter Cody Barton has struggled this year. Getting Robinson matched up one-on-one versus Barton could be something the Falcons could exploit on Sunday.
Another Falcons rookie who will be scrutinized on Sunday will be left guard Matthew Bergeron. He’ll face off against veteran Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, and if we all remember, the last time Allen faced a Falcons rookie left guard in 2021 did not go so well for that rookie. Bergeron must avoid a similar fate if the Falcon's offensive line is going to hold up against a formidable Commanders defensive front.
Allen is just one of four former first-round picks that make up that unit, so Bergeron won’t be the only blocker with his hands full. But it’ll be important that Bergeron holds his own, given that the last time he faced an established veteran like Allen was against Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark in Week 2. Despite the Falcons pulling through with a victory that week, their offense stagnated for much of the game, a fate which is partially owed to Bergeron’s frequent breakdowns trying to block Clark. A major leap forward in Bergeron’s development will involve being less of a liability on Sunday against Allen.
Washington isn’t the only team in Sunday’s matchup that wants to get after the quarterback, as the Falcons too would love to disrupt quarterback Sam Howell. Much of that disruption will rely on their front getting home against a Commanders offense that has given up 29 sacks thus far this year.
Since Washington seems to be giving away sacks like Halloween candy, one eager trick-or-treater will be Calais Campbell, who is searching for his 100th career sack. He may not get a better opportunity than going up against Commanders right tackle Andrew Wylie this weekend.
The last player that I want to highlight in this matchup is the Falcons’ number two receiver Mack Hollins. But that’s not due to expectations that Hollins is poised for a breakout game on Sunday, but simply due to wondering if his status with the team is on the rocks.
Hollins saw a reduction in snaps last week against the Texans in favor of KhaDarel Hodge, and a few days later the Falcons traded for another wide receiver in Van Jefferson. Was Hollins’ reduced playing time simply a one-off or are the Falcons on the verge of moving in a new direction at wide receiver? Time will tell. But it’ll be worth paying attention to see if Hollins’ playing time continues to be limited against the Commanders, as it could have bigger consequences for later in the season.
Are there other Falcons that you can name that intrigue you in this Week 6 matchup?