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Saints Nation: Scouting the Falcons

The Saints open the season at home, thankfully, and will host the bitter rival Atlanta Falcons. It's been Falcons hate month(s), not Falcons hate week, but as the game nears we're definitely zeroing in our strong distate for the visitors. The Falcons had a quiet preseason that didn't showcase much in terms of their talent, much like the Saints to a degree. Here's how the Falcons look:

OFFENSE

Matt Ryan is back with his now cap crippling salary and some nice weapons to surround himself with. It's odd, the Falcons on paper are a terrific offense and the Saints last year was horrific defensively, but the Saints defense always seems to do a decent job of slowing down this offense. Even last year at their worst, the two game swing against the Falcons had really good defensive moments. Tony Gonzalez is back at tight end in his final season, while Julio Jones and Roddy White remain the scary tandem at receiver. Steven Jackson is the new back, replacing Michael Turner, in what Falcons fans think will be a major upgrade. The Falcons also have a nice X factor change of pace back in Jacquizz Rodgers and a solid left side of their offensive line. If there's a weakness, though, it's the right side of their line and that's what the Saints will need to attack preferably straight up without blitzing. Cam Jordan, Junior Galette and company will have to do a good job exposing that. Matt Ryan get rid of the ball quickly and takes advantage of the size of his receivers to throw them open off the line of scrimmage quite often. The offense works to draw the defense in that way, along with their run game, to then beat you vertically with White and Jones' speed. The key to slowing down this offense is to shut down the run game, something the Saints have done well against this team in recent years. This will be no different. If the Saints can get the Falcons in obvious passing downs, they can get pressure on the right side. Losing Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure in the offseason was a hit for this offensive line which now has holes.

DEFENSE

The Falcons 4-3 alignment has a decent front four, but gone is John Abraham's double digit sacking contribution. Replacing him is an aging Osi Umenyiora who is still dangerous but more containable than years past. The Falcons have talent in the linebacking core and secondary, but nothing amazing, and the Saints can expose the lack of experience at cornerback. Desmond Trufant, a rookie, is starting and the Falcons also have a rookie at nickel (Robert Alford). This will be an opportunity for Colston, Moore and Jimmy Graham to work the slot mercilessly. The Falcons are not great at stopping the run, and without Abraham they're not great at rushing the passer. With Dunta Robinson gone at corner they are even weaker. The Saints can move the ball and score points on their defense as long as they take care of the football and don't have a turnstile at right tackle as they did the last time these two teams faced.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Bryant has been a little banged up in practice this week so we'll see if he's compromised at all, but he always seems to kick well against the Saints. He's made 21 of his last 22 attempts playing against the Saints, which is just a sickening stat. He's due for an easy miss if you ask me. Matt Bosher, the punter, was also extremely good last season. Jacquizz Rodgers is the kick returner and Harry Douglas is the punt returner. Those two should scare us because the Saints' coverage units have been atrocious for a while now. So basically any returner should scare us. Hopefully they get that corrected starting now, but no Courtney Roby doesn't exactly comfort me.

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.

Saints Nation: Scouting the Falcons

This week the Saints are on the road once again traveling to Atlanta to take on their NFC South rivals. Both teams are coming off wins as the Falcons made quick work of the Colts and the Saints took care of the Bucs grabbing first place in the process. I try not make too much of a regular season game but this game could go a long way in determining where the Saints go in the playoffs. Looking forward to this game as I always like it when the Saints can go on the road and silence the Georgia Dome crowd beating the Falcons.

Special Teams/Defense

Nothing to worry about on the special teams side as the Falcons don’t really have that breakaway threat. The punter is a no name guy while the kicker is a former Buc who really wasn’t all that good when he was in Tampa Bay. This is a defense that has gotten better as the season has gone on. They have a group that won’t win games but they do make it difficult for opposing teams as they can attack in different ways. The defensive line is led by John Abraham and newcomer Ray Edwards. These two guys are defenders the Saints have to know where they are at all times or it will be a long day for Drew Brees. The linebackers are suspect but they do a good job of stopping the run. It was believed that the secondary for the Falcons was the Achilles heel of the defense this year but after a couple bad games to start the season the secondary has been getting better each week.

How to take advantage?

Both teams know each other as they have played some great games the last couple of years. So to find an advantage will be a little tough but I think the way to go will be to attack through the air to set up the running game. Last week was great as the Saints first three plays was running plays getting back to basics but this week the yards will be tough to come by on the ground. I look for some quick passes over the middle ,screens to the running backs and just dropping it off in the flats to get the offense on track to start the game off. The other key stat to look at is the Saints are 6-0 when they rush for over one hundred yards in games this year, so as the Saints get a lead in this game they can keep that time of possession in their favor by running the ball.

Offense

The Falcons offense is led by Matt Ryan and a handful of pro bowl playmakers. They run first to set up their passing game but as last season wore on teams keyed in on stopping the run and taking Roddy White out. That is why the Falcons went out and drafted Julio Jones. Not that Roddy wasn’t doing the job but Julio is a deep threat that will help the offensive personnel get one on one matchups. The guy who has given the Saints problems over the last couple of years is Tony Gonzalez, he is a matchup nightmare just because he knows how to get open and he is a threat in the red zone. Early in the season the offensive line was riddled with injures and it showed as teams were getting pressure on Ryan, which in turn this led to more turnovers. But the offensive line has gotten starters back and it has improved their offense the last couple of weeks.

How to take advantage?

Stopping the run will go along way in stopping this offense for the Saints defense. Michael Turner will get his yards but the Saints need to get the Falcons in third and long situations taking the running game out of the equation. It has seemed the last couple of times the Saints have played the Falcons that Matt Ryan has had time in the pocket to pick the secondary apart but Coach Williams needs to be mixing it up this week building on last week performance against the Bucs. Last week the Saints came to play on defense and while they didn’t shut down the Bucs they did get them off the field in key situations. Also along with stopping Turner, can the Saints cover Tony Gonzalez especially on third downs? Because it seems like that is where Ryan is looking to go on a key third down… so maybe slide a linebacker underneath to take away Gonzalez’  underneath routes.

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.

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