Time to get the season going.
To fill us in on their side of things, I linked up with Dave Choate from The Falcoholic, SB Nation's community for fans of the Atlanta Falcons.
What are you expecting from the running game on Sunday? Rams fans will understandably be watching Steven Jackson with a couple different emotions working. But between his performance against the Saints (in which if you take away that 50-yarder, it's a pretty poor showing) and the Rams' improved run D, is this another game that ends up seeing the Falcons pass the ball roughly three times as often as they run? How do they tighten up that ratio if they even want to?
I think you're going to expect a reasonably effective but not dominant game from Steven Jackson. I know Dirk Koetter is going to attempt to balance out the gameplan a bit more, and the Falcons will try to spring Jackson for better gains. Ultimately, though, they'll probably pass at a 2:1 ratio because they have so many weapons in the passing game.
Jackson is, as you know, a quality weapon out of the backfield. If he can't get it going behind a struggling offensive line, they may be forced to abandon the run again.
How big of a loss is Roddy White if he can't go? With Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez, it seems like you have enough there to make sure Matt Ryan can push the ball downfield. How crucial is he really to the offense?
Roddy's so important because he excels at getting open. Ryan uses Roddy and Tony Gonzalez as his two security blankets, receivers who will be able to fight their way out of tight coverage often enough that he can rely upon them when the pass rush is in his face. Even though there's a ton of talent on this offense, White remains Ryan's top target for that reason. Having him limited or out of the game puts more pressure on the rest of the team's admittedly excellent weapons.
One potential perk to having Roddy limited: It should force Ryan to lean on Julio Jones more heavily. His quarterback rating when throwing to Jones is astoundingly good.
How should Rams fans feel about the Falcons' front seven? Is sustained pass pressure something we should expect? What kind of a unit are Akeem Dent, Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas forming?
You should feel pretty ambivalent. The Falcons brought decent heat against the Saints a week ago, especially from the interior of the line. Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann are useful players off the edge, but we're all hoping to see more of Malliciah Goodman and Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. Goodman in particular was very effective in limited snaps against the run just a week ago.
The linebackers are sort of a mixed bag. Akeem Dent is a quality run-stopper and someone who tries very hard in coverage, but he seems to wind up matched against receivers far too often. He loses that battle every time. Stephen Nicholas is a decent starter at this stage of his career, while Weatherspoon has elite athleticism and makes big plays. He's unfortunately prone to taking bad angles to the ball, however.
Ultimately, if this unit continues to grow, they could give Sam Bradford fits and effectively limit the ground game. They could also just be average, though. Jury's still out.
What are the weakest points on this team, moreso in terms of talent than scheme? If you had to pick one or two positions to upgrade in the 2014 NFL Draft, what would they be?
The offensive line is a huge weak point. Sam Baker and Justin Blalock have settled in as slightly above average players much of the time, but they're being paid as though they were more than that. Garrett Reynolds is a decent starting right guard, and Lamar Holmes is still growing as a right tackle. On a week-to-week basis, this could get ugly.
The Falcons also don't have elite talent off the edge or at linebacker, outside of Sean Weatherspoon. You can expect the Falcons to prioritze the lines and linebacker in the 2014 draft.
What was the mentality of the offseason like coming off the loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship after that crazy game against the Seahawks a week prior? NBC Sports' NFL Turning Point's season opener talked about some recent 4th down miscues in Falcons history. You guys are certainly dealing with higher expectations than Rams fans are. How is the franchise and fan base handling the week one loss?
There's plenty of panic, but also a lot of "okay, it's Week 1, we got this." You expect that kind of mix, but I'd say the panic is coming from watching the Falcons fritter away leads and make bone-headed mistakes in the playoffs a year ago. That kind of thing stings.
The expectation for me was a 10-6 season and the chance to make real noise in the playoffs again with an opportunistic defense and potent offense. That's still where I sit today, but the injuries certainly aren't helping my nerves. I'd say that Falcons fans are mostly cautiously optimistic at this point, but a 0-2 start to the season would take some bricks out of that wall.
Thanks to Dave to for taking the time to answer these.