The New Orleans Saints have had some large battles over the years, but perhaps no greater foe exists than the Atlanta Falcons. The two clubs have faced each other 92 times dating back to 1967, and that’s not including the one postseason duel in the 1991 playoffs. When these two collide, you know that you’re in for a very entertaining affair.
Sun Tzu, a very well-known Chinese general and military strategist, has one of the most famous sayings from The Art of War, “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles. Know yourself but not your enemy, find level of loss and victory. Know thy enemy but not yourself, wallow in defeat every time.”
Farewell Mike Smith, hello Dan Quinn. What’s the mood like with a new coach? What is it that Quinn can bring to the table that Mike Smith didn’t?
"The players already seem to love Dan Quinn, he’s a real player’s coach. In the end there felt like a bit of a disconnect between Smith and the players, but that’s not the case with Quinn. What he brings is a philosophy for how he wants this team to play, and we will very much see this identity in year one. His aim is to play fast and physical, much like his former team the Seahawks."
The Atlanta Falcons running game has had a ton of opportunity the past several seasons. How do you see Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman factoring in this season?
"I think we will see improvements. Freeman didn’t see much of the football last year but the potential is certainly there. I love the pick of Tevin Coleman—he’s a violent runner with no fear and I think he will give the offense a boost. With two young players, it’s hard to know exactly how they will perform, but I expect the Falcons to have a nice 1-2 punch with Coleman and Freeman."
No extension for Julio Jones. With the Dez Bryant news circling, all eyes are on what he gets. Will the Falcons break the bank to keep Jones?
"They have to, within reason. Jones is so important for the offense, especially considering what they gave up to get him in the first place. I think in the end the two parties will come to an agreement, hopefully sooner rather than later. Atlanta has the cap space to give him a big deal and maybe it will be around the Calvin Johnson number. Who knows? A lot of credit has to be given to Jones. Whereas Bryant is threatening to sit out of Week 1, Jones has kept his head down and stayed a true professional."
Lots of personnel losses for the Falcons this season, which one hurts the most? On the flip side, what’s the best addition the team made this offseason?
"There have been a lot of players heading for the exit in Atlanta this offseason, but one player I think will be missed is Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon has been plagued with injuries and missed the entire 2014 season, but his leadership off the field was so important. Prince Shembo spoke very highly of Weatherspoon, saying how much he taught him last year during his rookie campaign.As for the best addition—it has to be Vic Beasley. Not only is he an incredibly talented football player, he filled the team’s biggest need. The Falcons recorded just 22 sacks last season, so they went and drafted Clemson’s all-time sack leader."
What’s one player that’s been turning heads that we really don’t know anything about?
"Fourth round draft pick Justin Hardy could be that guy. He’s slipped under the radar but he’s going to need to play an important role on offense to fill the void left by Harry Douglas. Hardy has all the tools to become an excellent target in the passing game this year. He has good hands, runs great routes and can block. Stay tuned with this guy."
What are you realistic expectations from the Falcons this year? Playoffs? NFC South champions?
"I expect improvements this season but there is still a lot of work to be done to get the Falcons anywhere close to where they were in 2012. If the Falcons were in just about any other division I wouldn’t give them much chance of reaching the playoffs, but to me the NFC South is wide open. If the defense can improve enough and we see more of the same on offense, they are capable of winning the division but it could just as easily be the Panthers or Saints on top. Whether Falcons fans like it or not, this year is all about making progress. Playoffs would be great, but it’s all about making strides for the future."
The Falcons and Saints aren’t set to meet until Week 6 of the regular season on Thursday Night Football, and will square off in the Week 17 season finale. Be sure to check out Blogging Dirty’s scouting report on the Saints.