Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Falcons' Defense

Like the Falcons' offense and Vikings' defense, Atlanta's defense is a mirror image of the Vikings' offense. They are very good at stopping the run and bad against the pass, perfect for letting the Tarvaris Revolution hit the proverbial ground running.

Last year, led by the monstrous Grady Jackson (6'2, 345lbs), who you may remember from the Packers, the Falcons line dominated opposing running backs, holding them to an anemic 3.75 yards per carry, the 6th lowest total in the NFL. Only four backs ran for 100 yards against them, and they held their opponents under 100 yards rushing nine times. Their front seven is banged up though, with Grady Jacksons fellow tackle, Rod Coleman, questionable due to a quadricep injury and starting linebacker Demorrio Williams out for the first five weeks of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle.

Despite those injuries, Chester Taylor and the Purple Jesus are still going to have their hands full, something Tarvaris and his merry band of wide outs do not. They're going to have a much easier time against a pass defense that was one of the worst in the NFL last year, and got worse in the offseason, due to the departure of defensive end Patrick Kerney via free agency. Without Kerney, the Falcons will be relying on raw first rounder Jamaal Anderson and John Abraham to improve an ineffective pass rush. The Falcons defense was able to create a negative pass play 8.88% of the time, which was 22nd in the league. And while Abraham was effective when he was healthy last year, he wasn't healthy very often, and his injury problems have started up again, as he's battling a hip flexor injury. And unlike the Vikings, the Falcons don't have a very good secondary to make up for their poor pass rush. DeAngelo Hall is good (55% success rate against passes thrown his way), Jimmy Williams is starting at safety for the first time and Lawyer Milloy is awful, turning in a 40% success rate last year.

The combination of a poor secondary and minimal pass rush meant that the Falcons defense made opposing quarterbacks look like better versions of Tom Brady. Opposing QBs had an 88.8 quarterback rating against Atlanta, which would have been good enough for 9th in the NFL, ahead of Brady's 87.9 rating. It was the 6th worst defensive quarterback rating in the NFL.

That's why this Sunday should be fun for the Revolution and the Vikings. Hutchinson and Birk vs Grady Jackson will be an epic battle in the middle, but Tarvaris shouldn't have any trouble getting off to a good start. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd rather the Vikings' experienced players have a challenge instead of the inexperienced ones. Luckily, that's how it's worked out against the Falcons.

1 comment:

Newt said...

Rod Coleman out for season! YEAH!