Falcons at Cardinals Week 6 Preview

Grady vs Cardinals
Photo credited to http://www.fullpresscoverage.com and USA Today

The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a lost to the Texans where the defense was absolutely nonexistent. Matt Ryan in the offense showed up for the game in this one as they actually had a lead at halftime for the first time since the Eagles game. However, the 17-16 lead entering the 2nd half disappeared as the defense had no answers for Watson and the Texans offense. Head coach Dan Quinn stated that the team would not return to Atlanta after the game, but spend the week out in Phoenix preparing for Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals got their first win of the season against the Bengals are currently 1-3-1 on the season, while the Falcons are 1-4.

So what do the Falcons do to get a win on Sunday. Well they need to stop Kyler Murray. Watson killed the Falcons with both his arm and legs. Kyler Murray discovered in the Bengals game that he has to use his feet to keep his team in games. So the Falcons need to find a way to get to Murray and do not let him break containment. Murray has had a lot of his passes batted down at line so if you cannot get pressure on him then get your hands up and just knock the ball down.

Second thing the Falcons need to do is to build off what you did against the offense. This is for the offense not the defense. The offense against the Texans were very efficient in the red zone. Yeah they struggled to get a good running game with Freeman which has been a major issue all season long. Matt Ryan didn’t throw an interception until the final seconds of the game which was a pick, but at that point the game was already lost for the Falcons all it did was made the score look worst than it did. However, Ryan did a great job of not forcing the ball and if his options weren’t there then do the check down to the backs which worked well. We saw the shuffle pass to Freeman which got a touchdown. Ryan also found Sanu for his first touchdown of the season and found Calvin Ridley for a touchdown. The only thing that concerned me on Sunday was Julio not getting the ball much. Granted that this has to do with Julio dealing with an injury, but if he is out there it means he is healthy enough to go out there to make an impact.

Final thing the Falcons need to do is to stop playing these soft zones. The soft zones have not worked at all. Falcons need to play better coverage defensively. Second year corner Isiah Oliver is seeing his playing time being reduce and you will see rookie corner out of Ohio State Kendall Sheffield get a lot more playing time. Oliver has been awful this season so far. He has played out of position, been burned, and looked absolutely lost out there on the field. He hasn’t really given the team anything to happy about so Sheffield is the next man up and will be interesting to see how well he will do.

Now for a few transactions that the Falcons have made this week. Safety Johnathan Cyprien was placed on the IR earlier this week. There has been no word on exactly what his injury is, but he is coming off an ACL injury that kept him out all last season. Falcons signed former Georgia Tech cornerback DJ White. For Jacket fans, you will remember him for his game winning interception back in 2014 against Georgia in Overtime. White was originally signed by the Eagles to their practice squad and has been with a few teams during his time. He was with the Redskins during the preseason and was with the Colts before then. White was a 2016 sixth round pick in the draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Falcons also signed offensive linemen John Wetzel especially with the injury of Jamon Brown who was out last week. Also the Falcons signed Kasey Redfern to the practice squad as he will be moved to the active roster on Saturday or Sunday for the game.

I believe that this game is one that the Falcons should win. Cardinals are not a good team, but neither are the Falcons right now. This would be a good win to get because I don’t know how many more wins the Falcons can get especially if they cannot turn this thing around. Kickoff against the Cardinals is at 4:05 on Fox. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter throughout the game and for all updates on the Falcons.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons at Texans Week 5 Preview

Freeman vs Texans
Photo credited to http://www.11alive.com

The Atlanta Falcons will travel to Houston Sunday to face the Houston Texans. Both the Texans and Falcons are coming off loses. The Falcons suffered and embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans at the Benz as yet again the Falcons got off to a slow start and were never able to recover. As for the Texans, they struggled getting anything going offensively against the Carolina Panthers as they were held to 10 points like the Falcons. The Texans defense had issues stopping Carolina’s running back Christian McCaffrey who ran all over the Texans defense. Texans offensive line also struggled to give Watson time as that was a big issue last season for them and for the first few games this year. Now top all that has gone wrong this season, they are heading back to the stadium where they had a super bowl go right through their hands. I only mentioned this because it will be brought up during the game on Sunday.

So what can the Falcons do to get back on track? Well first thing they have to do is not put yourself in a hole early. In Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Tennessee the Falcons at halftime trailed by at least 10 or more. The only time this season the Falcons have not trailed at halftime was against Philadelphia where they were up 10-6 at halftime. The second thing the Falcons have to do is be efficient in the red zone. This seasons offensive struggles in the red zone looks very similar to the 2017 season where they struggled, but instead of trading 7 for 3, the Falcons are turning it over or knocking themselves out of field goal range. Part of that is lack of discipline and the other part is poor execution. Matt Ryan has 4 turnovers in the red zone so far this season. 3 are interceptions and 1 is fumble which occurred last week against Tennessee.

The third thing the Falcons have to do is get a pass rush against Watson. The Texans have struggled last season and this season protecting Watson. Now granted that Watson is a mobile quarterback, he still was sacked 68 times last season. The Falcons are facing their second straight mobile quarterback. Last week was Mariota, this week it is Watson, and next week is Murray. Falcons did not sack Mariota at all last game. They did get pressure on him, but the pass rush was non-existent. This would be a good game for Vic Beasley or Takk McKinley to step up and be the pass rushers that the Falcons need you to be.

Final thing the Falcons have to do is get Devonta Freeman going. Freeman looked good against the Colts, but has been very quiet this season so far. He is a big part of the offense and Dirk Koetter has to find a way to get him going. Same goes with Calvin Ridley who has also been very quiet this season so far. Both Freeman and Ridley need to get going to help make the offense return to its high scoring ways.

Here are the injury updates for the Falcons for this week. Matt Bosher has been placed on the IR so Matt Wile who was signed and then waived then put on the practice squad has been brought back to kick so he will be the Falcons punter and kickoff specialist for a while. Right guard Jamon Brown who left last week’s game with a concussion is out for Sunday, running back Kenjon Barner is out again with a concussion, and corner Blidi Weh-Wilson is out for Sunday’s game. This means that Wes Schweitzer will be the starting right guard and the third the Falcons have used this season. He may get some snaps at center if Alex Mack doesn’t go. Demontae Kazee is questionable with an illness as he will likely be a game time decision.

There are many other things the Falcons need to do in order to beat Houston on Sunday, but these are the four biggest that they must do. This season is not close to being over, but if the Falcons continue to play the way they have been playing then it will be a long season for them and could be the last for Dan Quinn. Kickoff is at 1:00 on Fox. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter throughout the game and for all your updates on the Falcons.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons Trade Duke Riley

Johnathan Cyprien
Photo credited to http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com

Since the Falcons lost Keanu Neal for the season, Dan Quinn has been looking for a replacement. Last week the Falcons promoted safety Jamal Carter from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Tonight, Falcons traded linebacker Duke Riley to the Eagles along with a 6th round pick in the 2020 draft to the Eagles for safety Jonathan Cyprien and a 7th round pick in the 2020 draft. Riley was drafted in the 3rd round in the 2017 draft. Riley’s playing time has been limited and was mainly getting his reps on special teams. Riley does have 16 starts at linebacker, but he is undersized and just never really got going during his time here in Atlanta.

As for Jonathan Cyprien, this will definitely help out the Falcons at safety. Cyprien was a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent 4 seasons with the Jaguars where he started in 60 out of 64 games for the Jaguars. After his time in Jacksonville, Cyprien signed with the Titans where he started in 10 out of 16 games for the Titans in 2017 and was out for all of the 2018 with an ACL injury. He signed a one-year deal this past offseason with the Eagles. Cyprien hasn’t started yet this season, but has gotten some playing time. With Kemal Ishmael not exactly working out at safety, Cyprien should see some significant playing time.

For more updates on all things Falcons follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons disappoint against the Titans

Titans Falcons Football
Photo credited to http://www.pro32.ap.org AP Photo/John Amis

The Atlanta Falcons entered Sunday looking to get back on track against the Tennessee Titans. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota came in with one passing touchdown this season well he added to his total by throwing 3 against the Falcons today. Just like the Minnesota game and the Colts, the Falcons were non-existent as the defense gave up 24 points in the 1st half. Mariota ended the game with 227 passing yards and Henry rushed for a total of 100 yards. Rookie wide receiver AJ Brown absolutely tortured the Falcons secondary and Desmond Trufant as he had 3 receptions for 94 yards with 2 touchdowns. One would think that the Falcons offense would be able to compete with the Titans and well that didn’t happen as the Falcons were held to 10 points. Ryan threw for 397 yards with no interceptions and no interceptions. Freeman finished the game with 28 yards rushing and the team in total had 58 total rushing yards. Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu were the only bright spots of the entire Falcons offense. Hooper had 9 receptions and 130 yards and Sanu had 9 receptions and 91 yards.

So what exactly went wrong with the Falcons against the Titans? Well lets first start with the defense. Defense started the game forcing the Titans to punt on their opening drive, but after that it was all down hill. As the penalties continued for them and defensive tackle Tyler Davison picking up 2 straight penalties for illegal hands to the face and offsides. Cornerbacks Isiah Oliver and Desmond Trufant were terrible. Oliver got beat a few times in coverage or flat out missed tackles. Trufant blew his assignments which led to several wide receivers being wide open for big gains. Falcons were able to get pressure on Mariota but never were able to bring him down for a sack.

Offensively, the Falcons started well after Tennessee scored a touchdown on their second drive. Ito Smith got a 2 yard rushing touchdown which tied it up 7-7 early in the 1st, but after that they stalled out. Matt Bryant missed a field goal that would of made it a two touchdown difference at half. Bryant would make a field goal on the Falcons opening drive of the 3rd quarter, but that would be the last time Falcons scored in the game. Ryan was sacked 5 times in the game and right guard Jamon Brown left the game with a head injury and did not return. Wes Schweitzer had to come in and play right guard while Brown was out which makes it the third right guard Falcons had to use this season.

If anything the Falcons looked worst on Sunday than the did against the Colts and more looked like they did in Minnesota. Something that is very concerning is that the Falcons are not coming out in the 1st half and playing. It takes them being down by 10 or more for them to get going which is just unacceptable. So far the Falcons have been outscored 71-20 in the first half alone. The Falcons have a difficult amount of games coming up that will really make a break the season before they have a bye week in Week 9 and head to New Orleans in Week 10. The Falcons in their next 4 games have the Texans, Cardinals, Rams, and Seahawks. If the Falcons do not improve at all they have the possibility of being 1-8 going into the bye week. If the Falcons can go 3-1 or 2-2 then they can keep their season alive. Personally, I wouldn’t call for Dan Quinn to be fired yet, if the Falcons are 1-8 by Week 9 and do not win more than one or two more games this season then yes Dan Quinn should be fired.

Up next for the Falcons is a road trip to Houston to face the Texans. The Texans are coming off a difficult loss to the Carolina Panthers. Panthers defeated the Texans 16-10 and the Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled against the Panthers defense. Texans have had a similar issue with their offensive line that the Falcons have had. This would be a good opportunity for Takk McKinley or Vic Beasley to go off in this game. All I am hoping for on Sunday is for them to come out and play all four quarters well. Kickoff against the Texans is at 1:00 PM on Fox. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter throughout the game and for all your updates on the Falcons!


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons vs Titans Week 4 Preview

Devonta Freeman
Photo credited to AP Photo/James Kenney and http://www.nfl.com

The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a difficult loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted and just like the Vikings they had a big lead at halftime. The Falcons will be looking to not be penalized so much as they had 16 against the Colts and many of these penalties extended drives for the Colts. This week in practice Dan Quinn brought in a full crew of officials to help reduce the penalty issues. The Falcons are also dealing with injuries as safety Keanu Neal is out for the remainder of the season. Quinn brought in two safeties early this week for workouts, but ultimately signed safety Jamal Carter off of the practice squad to help take over Neal’s spot. Offensively the Falcons have two running backs that received concussions last week. Kenjon Barner has officially ruled out for Sunday’s game with a concussion while Ito Smith has been cleared for Sunday.

In practice this week, both Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison were active with the running backs. It will be interesting on seeing who will be the 3rd string back with Barner out. Ollison would make sense on because it is the big back and is the third and short situation back. Offensively the Falcons need to start better. In the Colts game last week, the Falcons offense didn’t come to life until the 2nd half. Also Matt Ryan needs to limit his interceptions. Ryan threw another red zone interception and once again Luke Stocker was the target. Stocker was covered pretty well and Ryan would of had to of made a perfect throw just for Stocker to catch it. Also the Falcons need to continue to get Devonta Freeman involved in the running game. Freeman looked better last week running the ball and is a key part of this offense. Koetter likes to run the ball a lot and wants to have a more balanced offense which we did see some last week as it opened up the play action attack. Koetter also admitted that he needs to Calvin Ridley involved more in this offense. Ridley only had one catch for 6 yards against the Colts.

Defensively, the Falcons failed to get the final stop they need to give Matt Ryan and the offense a chance at tying or winning the game. Falcons also suffered injuries late in the game to defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley. Jarrett has been cleared for Sunday’s game, but not much word on McKinley who suffered a knee injury. If McKinley is not good to go then look for Adrian Clayborn to get the start and expect to see more of rookie John Cominsky. Falcons will also need to stop the run and tackle better. Derrick Henry is a big back and thrives off of yards after contact. One thing that is interesting about Henry is that he does better when he gets to the outside. So if the Falcons can take away the perimeters for Henry then that will force quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat the Falcons with his arm which is something that the Falcons will want since Mariota is more of a threat with his legs than his arm. This leads to another thing that the Falcons will need to do which is contain Mariota. If the Falcons can keep Mariota from beating them with their legs, then they set themselves up on creating more turnovers and give the Titans some serious issues on offense.

Overall, I expect the Falcons to win this game by at least 10 points or more. Tennessee hasn’t really looked good outside of the Browns game. The Titans do have a good defense and one that is a good test for the offensive line. However, I expect the offense to not have much issues in this one. The biggest thing that the Falcons need to do is to limit the self inflicted wounds. This is not necessarily a must win for the Falcons, but it is one that they should be a win. The next 4 games for Atlanta are brutal with the Texans on the road and having both the Seahawks and Rams coming in. The absolute last thing the Falcons need is to go 1-3 heading into Houston. So a win at home against Tennessee can help give them some momentum heading into Houston.

Kickoff against the Titans is at 1:00 on CBS. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter for updates throughout the game and for all things Falcons.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons drop close one against Colts

Julio vs Colts
Photo credited it to http://www.washingtonpost.com

The Atlanta Falcons were looking to build off their big win against the Eagles, but a poor first half, bad defense, and too many penalties really killed the Falcons in this one. Matt Ryan once again threw a bad interception intended for Luke Stocker in the redzone and the defense did not play well at all. The defense struggled to get pressure on Brissett all game which was somewhat expected given how good the Colts offensive line is, but after stopping the run against the Eagles last week the Falcons struggled stopping Marlon Mack as he rushed for 74 yards and a had touchdown. Colts rushed for 79 yards total but the big runs that Mack had in the time at times hurt the Falcons. Falcons defense also suffered some key injuries during the game. The biggest injury was safety Keanu Neal who was injured on a non-contact play. It was confirmed on Monday that Keanu Neal has a torn achilles and is out for the rest season which is just awful for Neal who worked so hard to come back after suffering a season ending injury last season on opening night against the Eagles. The other two injuries were Takk McKinley who left the game with a knee injury and Grady Jarrett who had a toe injury. Running backs Ito Smith and Kenjon Barner also left the game with a concussion.

As for the Falcons offense, they did bounce back in the second half as Ryan threw three touchdowns one to Julio Jones and two to Austin Hooper. Devonta Freeman also had a good game running the ball as he rushed for a total of 88 yards and had two runs for 20 or more yards. Unfortunately for the offense, they did not get one last chance to try to tie the game up or win it as the defense could not get that final stop that they needed. It also did not help that the offense only scored 3 points in the first half and were down 20-3 at halftime. However, the biggest thing that killed the Falcons on both offense and defense were the 16 penalties that they had. The offense were able to overcome their penalties but the defensive penalties were absolutely back breakers as the Falcons defense had three defensive penalties that kept the drive alive for the Colts.

Overall this was one that the Falcons should of won. Dan Quinn’s defense did not look ready to play and looked like the same defense that everyone in Week 1. The 16 penalties are absolutely inexcusable as that is just a lack of discipline. The slow starts on offense need to change as well and Dirk Koetter needs to play to Matt Ryan’s strength which is up tempo offense. It worked for Ryan when he played at Boston College and worked for him when Shanahan was here. Now as for dealing with the Keanu Neal injury, Falcons need to look at possibly signing Georgia native Eric Berry to replace Neal for this season. On Sunday the Falcons had Kemal Ishmael at safety and he did not play well at all. Head coach Dan Quinn did announce on Monday that they will be holding workouts at safety to try and find someone to help replace Neal. Quinn also stated that he is not moving Damontae Kazee and rookie corner back Kendall Sheffield to help out at safety with Neal out.

There is a lot that needs to be improved on between now and Sunday for the Falcons.  They are back at home at the Benz against Tennessee who looked awful against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Thursday. This a must win game for the Falcons because you do not want to be 1-3 going on the road to play Houston. Kickoff against the Titans is at 1:00 PM on CBS. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter throughout the game and for more updates on the Falcons.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599

Falcons at Colts Preview

Trufant vs Colts
Photo credited to http://www.colts.com

The Atlanta Falcons are coming off of a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday and are looking to get another win against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are playing at home for the first time this season and are looking to build off their win last week against the Titans. The Falcons will be facing yet another strong offensive line as the Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. However, the Colts do have some injuries that may hurt them in this one. Colts linebacker Darius Leonard who is the Colts best tackler is ruled out for Sunday as he is still in concussion protocol. Colts running back Marlon Mack is questionable with a calf injury and Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is questionable as well with a quad injury. Both Mack and Hilton were limited in practice on Friday. Falcons did rule out punter Matt Bosher for the game Sunday. Earlier this week the Falcons did sign punter Matt Wile who will likely be the punter for Sunday against the Colts.

As for the game Sunday, the Falcons need to take care of the ball better. In Week 1 against Minnesota the Falcons had 3 turnovers with two being interceptions by Matt Ryan and one being a fumble by Devonta Freeman. Last Sunday, Ryan threw 3 interceptions and now has 5 interceptions on the season. I expect Ryan to limit the turnovers as the Falcons receivers should be a big problem for the Colts secondary. Also the Falcons need to get Devonta Freeman going. Freeman has had his touches limited in both games and backup running back Ito Smith has gotten more touches as well as more yards than Freeman. At some point, the Falcons will need to get Freeman going so that the Falcons can have that balance attack on offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons defense needs to do what they did to the Eagles to the Colts. As stated earlier, this is another strong offensive line that the Falcons are facing. They did a good job with getting pressure on Carson Wentz and forcing 2 turnovers by Wentz. The Falcons need to do the same thing to Jacoby Brissett as they need to get pressure on him and try to force him into turning over the ball. The Falcons also need to shut down the run. One thing that the Colts have done very well on offense so far this season is running the ball. Falcons need to shut down the run like they did against the Eagles as Philadelphia was held to 49 rushing yards.

If the Falcons do what they need to do on both sides of the ball, then the Falcons should win. Again I expect this to be a close one, but the Falcons should get the win on the road. This would be a nice road win to get for the Falcons. Kickoff between the Falcons and Colts is at 1:00 on CBS. Follow @BirdsInTheBenz on twitter throughout the game and for more updates on all things Falcons.


By: Stewart Zwald @SDZwald041599