In week 1, arguably no team lost more in terms of team value on defense than the Atlanta Falcons did with the loss of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. Coming into the week there were a lot of questions on whether the Falcons were going to be able to respond the the losses and move forward or be vulnerable and exposed.
Week 2 brought quite a few surprises. Matt Ryan had 2 rushing TDs and showed his competitive side once again as he bests Cam Newton.
Tevin Coleman seamlessly filled in for Freeman and was able to keep the defense honest on the ground while still offering a match up problem in the air. The offense looked good again. However, more impressive was the defense without its two star players in containing Newton. It didn’t start out well with a couple penalties early and Kazee getting ejected for a clearly late hit on Cam (he can expect a fine as well).
However, overall the defense held up really well against Carolina and gave us positive signs to come. They also got a bit lucky. The defense allowed Cam to complete 71% of his passes and gave up nearly 7yds a rush. They held up overall, but this was a weak offensive line and you would of hoped to see more pressure on Cam Newton from the front 4. Giving up 439 yards to a team who is missing it’s best pass catcher (Greg Olsen) and relying heavily on an unproven young player (McCafferey) also gives us signs for concern.
The turnover was more of a drop pass and right place right time than skill or playmaking. That drive looked promising for the Panthers up until that point, and they came down the next drive and scored a TD. Which brings me to the next concern, Duke Riley. While Riley looked better than he did in the preseason, it is still clear he is a large downgrade in the pass game from Jones and specifically in the middle zone.
I highlighted in this article, and again above, how smooth Jones hips are in covering the middle zone while following the QB’s eyes. In the same situation, you can see how Riley is frozen with no fluidity more waiting on the play to happen than developing with the play. The other concern he showed right after with the blown tackle on the same play.
There is no guarantee at safety or reading too much into play in week 2 without Neal as Kazee was removed early in this game. We at least know he wants to hit which is a good sign for reminding teams the Falcons safety spot can still bring the boom, but Jones is needed if this team’s going to win in the playoffs. Riley may be able to substitute and do enough to get by in the regular season, but when it becomes crunch time, the Falcons need Jones in their lineup to stop the NFC’s crop of QB’s.