Falcons vs. Saints: Questions with the Enemy


Nov 29, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) catches a touchdown over New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons vs. Saints is almost here live from New Orleans, where Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. will look to take down Drew Brees and the Saints in a battle for NFC South supremacy.

As per Fansided custom, we here at Who Dat Dish got with our rival Atlanta Falcons blog, Blogging Dirty and its managing editor Robert Stephens.

Below is our interview with Stephens concerning the game. Read on to find out how the opposite feels about their chances Sunday.

Check out my interview for their site as well, here.

1. Atlanta is expecting big things from young guys in the secondary like Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant. How do you see them panning out overall, and how will they fare against Drew Brees?

In the long run, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have enough athletic prowess to be a fantastic duo at corner.  Starting their NFL career against Drew Brees is Trial by fire, however.  Trufant should be able to keep up with the receivers, but he’s not going to be able to shut anyone out.  He’ll be targeted early and often.

2. John Abraham is gone, but Osi Umenyiora joined via free agency. Is there a difference in terms of impact and production?

Yes, John Abraham was a powerful defensive end even in his later years.  Osi Umenyiora has been very impactful in New York for years as well.  With 10 sacks, Abraham made almost half of the entire teams sack production.  Osi only got to the quarterback six times last year.  He was, however, injured for a large amount of the season and didn’t see a lot of field time behind New York’s talented pass rushers.  Umenyiora is younger and faster, he should fit just fine in the lineup, but he’s not going to be able to put quite as much pressure as Abraham did.  Luckily, with a few scheme changes and more talent, he won’t have to.

3. Offensive line is perceived as a weakness in Atlanta by some. Is that something that will give the Falcons problems against New Orleans?

As an entirety, the line is not as bad off as a lot of fans think.  On the left side, they are set.  Sam Baker at left tackle and Justin Blalock at left guard will keep Matt Ryan’s blind side protected.  The right side does hold some problems, primarily at right tackle.  Peter Konz and Gerret Reynolds are filling their position just fine, but Lamar Holmes looks extremely inconsistent.  There were quite a few times Holmes looked like he could stand up just fine against pressure.  There were times where he got blown up by a second string defensive end.  In a 3-4 defense where there are lots of outside pass rush, if Holmes plays like he has in recent preseason games, there will be a lot of problems in the backfield.

4. How big is the addition of Steven Jackson. He lost his job last year and is now expected to be that missing piece for Atlanta. How big of an impact will he have on the season overall and against the Saints?

I certainly wouldn’t say he lost his job, his contract expired and he left money on the table to come to Atlanta.  Michael Turner was great for a long time, but he had problems in his last season running the clock out and getting that extra yard for the first down.  That was a huge problem last year in the Superdome. This year, Steven Jackson is an every down back that should be able to pick up that last yard or touchdown and run hard enough to run out the clock in those close games.  One weakness of a 3-4 defense is that there aren’t enough down lineman to put a stop to a decent run unless the middle linebackers are also rushing. Running Jackson often will be the key to stopping the Saints.

5. It’s a tough task coming to the Dome and leaving a winner for any team, but especially a rival. Who has to step up outside of the obvious guys like Matt Ryan for Atlanta to start the season on the road with a win?

The Saints’ greatest strength is the passing game.  Desmond Trufant as a rookie is going to have to play at the top of his game just to keep up.  Lamar Holmes is going to have to do keep the pressure off of Matt Ryan.  If he can pick up the blitz like he showed early in the preseason, he’ll be fine.  If he plays like he did in the last two, it’ll be that much more difficult.  Stephen Nicholas is going to have to cover Jimmy Graham to keep him from being wide open.  He’s one of the most talented tight ends in the league and if he isn’t covered well from the linebackers, he’ll have another huge game.

6. Atlanta finally won a playoff game last year, but still split with the Saints. How do you see this opening weekend contest playing out between the two sides?

It’s really sort of test for Atlanta.  With added pieces on defense and a huge addition of Steven Jackson, they look like the Super Bowl contenders all the fans want them to be.  If Atlanta has what it takes to win it all, they should be able to go into a playoff atmosphere from day one and come out with a win.  It’s never easy to beat the Saints and even if they do end up starting the season at 0-1, they are still a playoff team and will get their chance, but the road will be that much more difficult.  I think the Falcons will do what they need to in order to come away with a win, but it certainly won’t be a blowout.

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