Every week, I endeavor to name five Atlanta Falcons players that arouse a state of curiosity and fascination. And every week so far this season, I’ve named quarterback Desmond Ridder. But until he starts playing better, I’m not sure intriguing is the word I’d use to describe watching him play quarterback.
So instead, this week we’ll move off the quarterback and look for intrigue elsewhere on the Falcons roster ahead of their Week 5 matchup against the Houston Texans.
The Falcons run game has been very good so far this year even without do-it-all “joker” Cordarrelle Patterson, but adding another weapon can’t hurt. Also, Patterson could provide a much-needed boost to a Falcons passing game that sorely needs it.
Patterson made his debut last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars but only played a single snap on offense. That is likely due to him still nursing a thigh injury that has limited him since the summer. With Patterson fully practicing thus far this week, he appears poised to finally be fully incorporated into the offense, not to mention his added value on special teams.
The Falcons offensive line needs a “get-right” game against the Texans this week. And that potentially starts with right tackle Kaleb McGary, who has the biggest challenge ahead since he will frequently face the Texans' top two pass-rushers: Will Anderson and Jerry Hughes. Both players platoon at left defensive end where over 90 percent of their pass-rush snaps come according to PFF.
While McGary has been underwhelming in pass protection thus far this year, he remains one of the league’s top run blockers. The Falcons should lean on that skillset against the Texans’ smaller ends as a way to facilitate a potentially big rushing day for the Falcons offense.
A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah
Both of the Falcons' starting corners, A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah, will be tasked with slowing down an explosive Houston Texans passing attack. Houston’s 17 pass plays of 20 or more yards rank seventh in the NFL through the first month, and a lot of that is owed to the breakout performances of wide receiver Nico Collins, whose 10 such plays rank as the second most in the league behind only Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Terrell showcased his capabilities last week in shadowing Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley for much of the game, limiting him to just two catches for 38 yards. However, one of those catches was a 30-yard touchdown on a blown coverage by Terrell. He’ll have to eliminate such breakdowns if Collins is to be contained. But he won’t have to do it alone thanks to his teammate in Okudah, especially since bigger wideouts like Collins have typically given Terrell more issues in the past than quicker ones like Ridley.
Okudah’s size and length make him the perfect candidate to try and disrupt Collins at the line of scrimmage, and this is exactly the type of matchup that the Falcons were envisioning to justify why they traded for the former Detroit Lions first-round pick back in April. And it won’t be the first time the duo has clashed given that Okudah hails from Ohio State and Collins from Michigan. Their last collegiate meeting came in 2019, where Okudah blanketed Collins to the tune of just two catches and had two pass breakups.
It’s not just the Texans' passing attack that presents problems, but also their run game spearheaded by physical running back Dameon Pierce. Thus, the Falcons' defense can’t focus too much on preventing the explosive plays through the air to just allow Pierce to grind them down on the ground. That’s where linebacker Nate Landman comes into the picture.
Despite the fact that he’s only really started two games, Landman currently ranks 15th in run stops among linebackers per PFF, and his 89.0 run defense grade ranks third among his position group. Landman continuing to be a force against the run will be a big component of the defense’s ability to slow down the entire Texan’s offense.
So in naming five players in lieu of Ridder, I’ve technically achieved what many would deem impossible by actually naming six Falcons. Are there others that you can name that intrigue you in this Week 5 matchup?