After battling divisonal foe Carolina the week prior the Falcons will once again head out on the road. This time they'll be facing the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins are led by Mike Shanahan and have gone through some upheaval in recent years. From the Donovan McNabb experiment to the John Beck project. Washington finally looks to have found some acceptable middle ground at the QB spot in Robert Griffin.
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Griffin won the Heisman last year at Baylor and brings a very diverse and potent attack to the table. Team this with Shanahan's deadly zone run game and Atlanta might have some issues stopping a revived Redskins' offense.
When looking at the coaching match-up Atlanta should recognize the Redskins head coach. After all he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos that defeated the Atlanta Falcons in 1998 at Superbowl XXXIII. Shanahan employs a devastating zone running scheme which basically makes any RB on the roster a threat in the running game. This is the game where the loss of Curtis Lofton can be accurately gauged.
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Last year when the Redskins and Dolphins matched up Mike Nolan's defense came away with the last laugh holding the Redskins to only 9 points. Rex Grossman was held to only 215 yards with no TDs and 2 INTs. The Redskins as a whole were held to only 61 rushing yards with Roy Helu leading them with 41 yards on 6 carries. When they last played the Jaguars in 2010 the Redskins came away victors 20-17. In this game the Jags were without Maurice Jones-Drew, but David Garrard under Dirk Koetter's vertical offense put up 299 yards and a TD. Overall Atlanta seems to have a coaching advantage here.
When looking at the Redskins defense two men stand out and the must be accounted for. They would be OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Both are very proficient pass rushers. While Tyson Clabo should be able to handle Kerrigan, it's a different story on the other side of the line. Right now it's an open battle at left tackle for the Falcons with Sam Baker, Will Svitek, and Lamar Holmes all competing for the job. Unfortunately for Atlanta none of those guys are really perferable matchups for a monster pass rusher like Orakpo. Atlanta must keep him in check whether it be double with the RB/FB or chipping him with the TE. Atlanta must keep Orakpo out of the backfield.
Looking at the secondary you'll see another familiar name if you're a Falcon fan. That of Meangelo Hall. Hall is a decent corner back, but he gets overrated due to interceptions. He takes a lot of unnecessary risks in the passing game. He gets toasted at times on double moves and often mistimes routes. However, when he is on he's not a guy you want to throw at. At the other side Josh Wilson is an average corner back. He was a decent nickel during his time at Baltimore but he's not a guy you worry to much about.
The Redskins safeties are for lack of a better word awful. Tanard Jackson was suspended for a year from football and when he came back no one noticed. Jackson missed a ton of tackles last year for TB and struggled in coverage. At SS Brandon Merriweather is nothing more than a glorified hit-man. Sure he was a pro-bowler, but once the league started cracking down on huge hits his play went way down. He couldn't hold a job with Bears, and they have one of the worst safety corps in the league. In the middle Barry Cofield is an undersized but effective NT, and even though he's a year older London Fletcher is still a tackling machine. Overall if Atlanta can hold off Washington's pass rush they should be able to have their way with a porous Redskins' secondary.
On the offensive side, the Redskins are very different. They have a new QB in Robert Griffin and a new #1 WR in former Colt Pierre Garcon. Griffin in himself is going to be a very tough person to defend. Not only can he wing it but he can break contain and put that track speed to use. Atlanta has had trouble in the past with athletic QBs like Griffin. They have to keep contain on him and bring him down in the pocket when they get their hands on him. Which should happen often for left end Ray Edwards.
Edwards says he is completely ready after suffering a down year in 2011 which he blames on two knee surgeries he had done right before the season. Edwards is also going against one of the worst right tackles in football in Jamaal Brown. Brown was good when he was with New Orleans, but after jumping to the Redskins his play has declined severely. At left tackle, John Abraham could have a big day depending on if Trent Williams actually feels like trying. Williams is good when he actually gives a damn about the game, but that is few and far between. Overall the Redskins interior is decent, but not world breaking. Mike Nolan should be licking at the chops to play a porous offensive line like the Redskins.
As I said earlier Atlanta has to stop the run of Washington without Lofton other players like Stephen Nicholas are going to have to step up in this game. If Atlanta can stop Shanahan's zone run scheme then they will be able to pin their ears back and go after RG3. In terms of WRs Garcon isn't really a #1. He was good with Peyton Manning and last year even with Painter, but he'll be matched up against Brent Grimes who only allowed a 44.7% completion rate last year. On the other end Santana Moss is on the decline at this point in his career and will likely be matched up against veteran ball hawk Asante Samuel. Samuel can use his veteran savvy into tricking RG3 into making bad throws that Samuel can break on and put his superb ball skills on show. Fred Davis emerged last year and put up a very good season, however he will be matched up against one of the best young LBs in the game today in Sean Weatherspoon.
Overall, Atlanta has a lot of advantages in this game as their defensive line should be able to take advantage of a rather weak Redskins defensive line and Atlanta's veteran ballhawk corners can take advantage of the rookie mistakes of Robert Griffin. If Atlanta can hold off the pass rush on offense and stop the run on defense they will set themselves up for a blow out victory as Atlanta's offense will just be to much for a poor Redskins secondary and RG3 could be forced into a position where he would be under heavy pressure and could be prone to making a lot of rookie mistakes. I think Atlanta walks away with a big victory in this game.
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