The undefeated Atlanta Falcons visit FedEx Field this Sunday. The Falcons look like the class of the NFC South. The Redskins' flaws are all too apparent, but they look like high-scoring competitors in the Beast. How do the Redskins match-up with the Falcons? We turned to Kevin, our Bloguin colleague who covers Atlanta on the Grits Blitz Blog for answers.
Redskins Hog Heaven: Matt Ryan or Michael Vick?
Grits Blitz: Haha. Let's start with an easy one. Matt Ryan. And that comes from a guy that was a Vick defender and actually wanted to draft Glenn Dorsey over Ryan. In Matt Ryan, the Falcons have someone who is a willing leader, someone who will put in the time in the film room and someone who cares about his teammates. Not to mention that he's coming into his own and is on the verge of being an "elite" QB. Vick was a phenom when he played for the Falcons but he was a guy that never gave his all to be the best that he could be. Blame him or blame the regime that allowed him but as good as his flashes were, in the end he let an entire city down due to his selfishness. Matt Ryan is our guy and we aren't looking back.
RHH: Tell me about Falcons OC Dirk Koetter. Usually there is an adjustment period for new coordinators. I don't see that with Atlanta's offense. What is Koetter doing to get that performance?
GB: Dirk Koetter inherited some talent to play with in Atlanta. Coming from Jacksonville, I'm sure Koetter laughed maniacally after he compared the Falcons offensive talent with that of the Jags. Koetter hasn't done anything too out of the ordinary. Sometimes it's just a different voice that team can rally behind as Mike Mularkey was good for a while but ultimately he just got too stale.
One thing Koetter has done is he has opened up the pass game. Under Mularkey, the Falcons were reluctant to throw the deep ball and seemed set in their ways a little too much. Koetter has added the deep threat as well as an increased focus on the screen game and getting the ball to backs in the open field.
Also, through the first three games the offensive line, behind new coach Pat Hill, was doing a really good job protecting Matt Ryan. Giving Ryan the time to read the field makes a huge difference. Last week against Carolina, the OL did not play as well and it showed, as the Falcons had to come from behind.
RHH: Julio Jones strikes me as spectacular but not reliable (31 targets, 16 catches). Is he all you expected given what Atlanta gave up to get him – not that Redskins fans question spectacular Draft trades anymore?
GB: I think Julio will be all that we expect but he's been banged up a bit. He missed some games as a rookie and is currently working through a hand injury. Without a doubt, Julio has what it takes to be the best receiver in the NFL once he gets a little more experience under his belt.
RHH: How do the Redskins stop the Falcons' offense?
GB: They have to get pressure on Matt Ryan early and often. If the Skins let Ryan sit back in the pocket, he will pick them apart. Ryan just has too many weapons…Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, etc. The offensive line has been improved this year but struggled last week to contain Charles Johnson and the Panthers rush.
RHH: How do the Redskins attack the Falcons' defense?
GB: The Falcons have struggled against the run. Right now, the Falcons play better defense in the nickel and that's what they use as their primary defense. I think the Redskins have to pick up decent yardage on first down to try to keep the Falcons in a base 4-3 and if they can run the ball, traditionally or with RG3, they could see some success.
The Falcons have had great play from their Safety's, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud, this year but last week Moore struggled a bit with the Panthers athletic tight end Greg Olson. The Redskins could find a mismatch or two in the secondary provided they can keep The Predator (John Abraham) away from RG3.
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Image: September 22, 2012 – Source: Donald Miralle/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com.