Falcons-Chargers Preview

The “Real” Preseason Game

 After months and months of prognosticating, predicting, and analyzing, the start of the 2009 Atlanta Falcons Football Season is finally creeping  so close we can feel it. The Birds preseason has had its peaks and valleys, but overall the Falcons have shown the capability that fans came to expect from last year’s magnificent run. The offense as a whole has looked good (Lions) to fantastic (Rams), and the defense rebounded with a solid performance after a pretty weak opening game showing. This looks to be the “real” preseason game for all NFL teams as the coaches put game-plans in, treat it like the real deal, and leave their starters in for at least the first half. It’s the best indication for starters to shake any last rust off and candidates on the bubble to make the roster have a huge chance to make a lasting impression. The players that are in question will of course have one more game to fight it out, but having a great performance in the biggest game of preseason will go a long way towards cementing or breaking a spot on the 53 man protected roster.
A “Real” Team and Test
Many detractors in the media or elsewhere have made it a point to broadcast the fact that even the small amount of success the Falcons have had is due only to the fact that they have played two of the worst teams from 2008, the Detroit Lions and the St. Louis Rams. And to be honest, they do have somewhat of an argument, but preseason is just that…preseason. Teams can’t really control who they play, and they surely looked less than stellar against Detroit, but they made the appropriate improvements and looked much better overall as a team, with more of a sense of urgency and ferocity they lacked in week one. Those are in the past and a moot point with the high-flying San Diego Chargers rolling into the Terror-Dome in Atlanta. No accolades or descriptions needed for the Chargers, who have made the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years, had league MVPs, tons of Pro-Bowlers throughout the roster, and were a game away from the big dance only two years ago. A preview of what to look for on Saturday night:

On Point So Far (Chris Lee/ St.Louis Post-Dispatch)

Matt Ryan vs. Chargers Secondary
Matty Ice has looked sharp and crisp throughout the preseason making good decisions and completing all but one pass against the Rams, but the franchise QB runs into a formidable secondary with excellent cover corners Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie. Ryan looks to get more pressure from the Chargers quick, powerful, and hard-blitzing defense that’s made them famous. Who knows if Shawn Merriman will play, but even if he doesn’t suit up, the Bolts still boast one of the best linebacking corps in Shaun Phillips, Stephen Cooper, and not to mention rookie draft pick Larry English. Ryan’s decision making skills and accuracy will put to much more of a test against this defense. How will Ryan do against a legit defense? Will the likely pressure cause Ryan’s great preseason to hit a bump?

 

Turner, Norwood, & The Burn Unit vs. Stout Run Defense
Turner the Burner has looked magnificent in a very limited time against two rather porous defenses in the Rams and Lions. #33 has shown a knack for the long run in both games, ripping off several 20+ yard runs, breaking tackles, and looking as one of the best backs in the league. Norwood hasn’t hit that great game-breaking run yet, but seemed to shake off the rust against the Rams in week 2. The Falcons starting O-Line has looked excellent so far, paving room to run for Turner and giving Matty Ice plenty of time to throw the ball. But the lineman haven’t run up against Jamal Williams, Luis Castillo, Shawn Merriman, Shaun Phillips, and Stephen Cooper yet either. Will Turner come back down from his meteoric blastoff this preseason? Will our offensive line struggle against a better, more intense pressure-style defense? Can Norwood show he’s an every-down, between the tackles running back?

Tony Gonzalez vs. Shawn Merriman
Assuming that Merriman plays and is recovered from this knee injury, this looks to be one of the best matchups of the evening pitting one of the game’s best tight ends against one of the game’s best linebackers/defensive ends. Merriman missed the entire year last year, so its anyone’s guess if he’s 100 percent. Many fans can’t wait to see #88 make his long-awaited debut in red and black. Will Tony Gonzalez have a coming out party in his new digs and new house? Will Shawn Merriman return to form and keep TG under wrap or register a sack on Ryan?

Roddy and Jenks vs. One of NFL’s Best CB Tandems
White has had an excellent preseason, showing no ill effects from missing a week from the holdout. #84 has made several nice catches and many first down conversions, seeming to pick right up where he left off in terms of his chemistry with Ryan. Jenkins has had a couple of nice catches, but nothing spectacular. They both look to have their hands full with one of the NFL’s best CB tandem in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Will Roddy and/or Jenks have a great night on the big two? Will our Falcons WRs be covered up by Jammer and Cromartie?
Any Pass Rush vs. One of NFL’s Best O-Lines
The defensive ends have looked pretty good in preseason, particularly rookie Lawrence Sidbury Jr. collaring two sacks against the Rams, and second year man Kroy Biermann putting good pressure and registering team high tackles. We know what Abe can do, but the big question is who will step up and grab the starting RDE spot by the throat? Jamaal Anderson continues to ire fans with his lack of sacks, and Chauncey Davis failed to put his stamp on the spot starting against the Rams. Marcus McNeill and Jeromey Clary look to be an excellent test for Anderson, Davis, Biermann, Co. Is it time to let Biermann enter the competition at RDE? Will Davis finally supplant Anderson? Will this be Anderson’s breakthrough game?

Interior DT vs. Pro-Bowler Kris Dielman
Trey Lewis has seemed to look the best so far in the competition to replace Big Grady Jackson opposite Babineaux. Assuming he can stay healthy, another good performance my put Lewis in front for good. The next in line seems to be Thomas Johnson after having a great camp and preseason. If TJ can add one more solid game, he will likely cement a spot on the roster. Peria Jerry has seemed to have a very slow adjustment to the pro game. Many fans are hoping this is his breakout rookie game. Vance Walker looks to take himself off the bubble and make the coaches carry 5 DTs. They all better buckle up their chinstrap really tight, because Kris Dielman has made the Pro-Bowl two years in a row. Will Big Trey lock up the starting spot with a great game? Can Jerry finally show some great progress as a rookie? Will Thomas Johnson and/or Vance Walker lock up a roster spot?

Peterson/Nicholas vs. LT/Sproles
The new look linebacking corps will be put to the test with one of the best potential running back tandems in the NFL, assuming LT can make it back from a couple of injury riddled years. Peterson and Nicholas will not only have to contend with one of the best all time backs in LT, but one of the best up-and-coming backs in Sproles, with both running behind a great O-Line. Not to mention the fact that they’ll be asked to contain one of the league’s greatest tight ends in Antonio Gates. Time to see what our new LBs are made of. Will LT and Sproles run all over our LBs? Is this Nicholas’ breakthrough game?

William Moore - Atlanta Falcons safety

Moore to Debut for a Big Test (CCompton/AJC)

Young Secondary against the $92 Million Man
Rivers may have his issues with temper and class, but he is one of the most consistent, toughest, and best quarterbacks in the game. Rivers rarely makes mistakes and has made himself what he is with less than ideal receivers. After facing rookie Matthew Stafford, veteran Daunte Culpepper, and backup Kyle Boller, this is the real test for DeCoud, Coleman, Grimes, Jackson, Houston, and Owens. Second round draft pick William Moore will make his debut; what a test to get right off the bat.  At WR, Vincent Jackson had a good to great year with the Charger, and Chris Chambers is always a deep threat and good route runner. Also look for run support with the run-heavy, play-action offense. Welcome to the NFL boys. This one should be one of the best of the night. Will Rivers torch our young secondary? Can Grimes lock up the CB spot? Will Owens continue his stellar play as a rookie?

Alright Bird Cagers, dive into the biggest game of preseason as we get ready to see what we’re truly made of live in the Terror-Dome on Saturday night @ 8 pm. If you’re heading to the game, get down there early, tailgate, and get good an revved up to make some noise in the Dome.

Next Topic Preview: Final Roster Spot Competition

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

352 comments Add your comment

Sarah B

August 27th, 2009
11:02 pm

Hey ya’ll! Can’t wait till Saturday!!!

Stirg d'Nahsif

August 27th, 2009
11:15 pm

Big game, that’s for sure. Pretty much evenly matched across the board. With equal talent on the field, the x-factor will come down to coaching.

Sarah B

August 27th, 2009
11:17 pm

Stirg you gonna play FF with us???

Stirg d'Nahsif

August 27th, 2009
11:20 pm

Sarah B

August 27th, 2009
11:34 pm

you need to sign up draft is Sat.

JJ

August 27th, 2009
11:34 pm

Stirg,

Didnt you come up with the slogan: “Thy shall not run” during draft week or was it SW?

Stirg d'Nahsif

August 27th, 2009
11:35 pm

Wasn’t me, JJ.

Sarah, I’m signed.

Boxcarar

August 27th, 2009
11:50 pm

As your league progresses, please keep the Cage apprised of the standings, week to week. How many teams did your league end up having?
JJ,
Was it WR or SW?

Sarah B

August 27th, 2009
11:52 pm

Sarah B will be winning Boxcar…

Off to bed.

Hammerhead

August 28th, 2009
1:28 am

I know that the chargers are struggling on the right side of the line so I will wANT TO SEE HOW THEY PROTECT THAT SIDE FROM FALCONS PASS RUSH if they protect well this game will be won by chargers

Ed

August 28th, 2009
1:45 am

Good job on the breakdown D3…it looks as if the Chargers have an all star at nearly every position. Can you imagine what an Anquan Boldin could do for Rivers? As you mentioned he has had to survive with less than stellar receivers. This game should therefore give us a nice glimpse as to where the Falcons stand…can’t wait.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
9:01 am

D3,

Once again great job. This game will be every interesting to see. Can’t wait to see what Sid, Biermann, and Anderson will do against this O-Line. I do not know much about the Chargers but from what I just ready they are a legit SB contender. I know they want pay back for us beating them in there own house last season. Will be very interesting to see how Shawn Merriman does. that guy is dangerous when he’s 100%. If he close to form it will be interesting to see how he matches up with Gonzo. All in all this will truly be a great test as to how our O will look against a top notch defense.

mountain_jim

August 28th, 2009
9:02 am

Good read D3. Looking forward to this game. NO INJURIES!

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
9:23 am

JJ,

JJ

August 27th, 2009
10:39 pm

“I found out that guys like us will love this and cbrass if she gets off her ass.”

I really dislike FF therefore I will stay on my ass…ROFL.

Unca' Bob

August 28th, 2009
9:38 am

D3,

Another, in what is rapidly becoming , a long line of great topics and articles. Well done my friend.

M Jenkins should have a productive night. He will be up against Q Jammer, who last year had 2 Ints and 19 PDs. A Cromartie, is poison, and rightfully, will be avoided. He too, had 2 picks last year, with both coming in a win against the Jets. 4 of his 9 PDs came in the same game. Will Favre ever learn?

S Merriman and S Phillips are both formidable pass rushers. Add rookie L English into the mix and our O-Line and supporting cast will have their hands full. Lets hope for the best.

P Rivers had an outstanding year in ’08. With 478 attempts last year he had only 11 picks. L Tomlinson and D Sproles combined for 81 catches and 768 yards. TE A Gates had 60 catches and 8TDs. WR V Jackson had 59 receptions, 7 TDs and a remarkable 18.6 yards per. Our LBs and sub-packages will have a very busy night. And yes, Houston, you have a problem.

Overall, this will give us a true read on our readiness to compete with top-flight teams. With the Bolts being a 3-4 defense, it should also provide us with a checklist of areas to work on.

Last, but certainly not least, both teams need to come out of this contest injury free.

Unca' Bob

August 28th, 2009
9:48 am

JJ,

“Thou Shalt not Run” was coined by, I think, reno911.?.?

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
9:50 am

No worries CBrass, stirg showed up! We were just getting worried because with an odd numder of teams you have to have a bye week. But if you did play you would have known that about the Chargers, they are very FF worthy.

tyler

August 28th, 2009
9:56 am

I expect the Falcon first offense to play well. I think they have the talent to play with anyone in the league.

The defense will be challenged and I cant wait to watch how Owens is able to perform.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:07 am

Unca’ Bob,

Great post. Hope you’re doing well today. Our O-Line will definitely have their hands full.

Sarah B,

How are you doing? Glad to see that you guys have all the players that’s needed.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:15 am

tyler,

You’re right this is going to be a big test for our D. Will we get pressure on Rivers because if he has all day to throw he’s going to pick our young secondary apart. If Owens plays the way that he’s being playing he’ll be fine however if did get picked on a couple of times last week. Grimes has to come up with INT’s that hit him directly in the hands. As Unca’ Bob stated in a previous blog Houston is going to have to attempt to turn his head if he doesn’t it’s going to be a long night for him.

Trainwreck

August 28th, 2009
10:30 am

Can’t wait to get the answers to all these questions D3. I think this is a good test to see if our offense will be as dominant as predicted. Great offenses can’t be fully shut down, just slowed down a little… so I think is important to come up with points every drive even if just a FG. Defense… I’m going to close my eyes and pray. It could be ugly, but I hope I am wrong.

Dawson Devitt (D3)

August 28th, 2009
11:15 am

Great Friday (Best Day of the Week) Cagers! Hope you’re enjoying the new post. Can’t wait for Saturday night in the Terror-Dome. How many Bird Cagers do we have rolling into the ATL for the big game?

Keep a Close Eye – Coming Sunday with our first friendly competition of the season (more to come later in the year for sure), which will be our Roster Spot Competition. Choose every player for the 53 man roster and each player you get correct, you receive 1 points. If you can guess the practice squad as well, than you’ll get bonus points. Winner gets bragging rights, similar to our Mock Draft Competition which Reno911 won and has since disappeared. Should be fun.

Dawson Devitt (D3)

August 28th, 2009
11:23 am

Boxcarar – There certainly will be a weekly standings, with reports of who whipped up and who got whipped good for ribbing throughout the Cage. Would love to have gotten you in, but maybe next year. Sarah sounds like the favorite.

Hammerhead – Certainly one of two possibilities. The Chargers are one of the best of the NFL, so its a good test for us.

CBrass – Thanks as always. IMO, Biermann has seemed to outplay both CDavis and JA#98, but I never hear of him getting a shot to start opposite Abe instead of filling in for him, but I guess they assume that he will be spotting Abe so much that it really doesn’t matter if he starts or not.

mountain_jim – Thanks for the props my man. Fingers and toes crossed for no injuries, but you know that’s a part of the game, just like HD. Someone’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.

Unca’ Bob – Have no fear, I’ll draft you a winner tomorrow, but if you win the title can I share it? JK. I think Jenkins will have a fantastic year this year with TG taking the middle away and Roddy getting double-teamed possibly.

tyler – Nice points as usual. Offense has looked superior and can’t wait to see how they do against a top defense, regardless of how they played last year.

Trainwreck – Let’s hope our questions are answered in a positive manner, and lets hope too that our defense isn’t, pardon the pun, a Trainwreck. Love your handle by the way.

Later Gents and Gals……………..

Ed-Covington

August 28th, 2009
1:15 pm

Since a win in preseason wouldn’t really matter, and we all know what Turner can do; it would be interesting to let Norwood start to see what he can do as the primary back. Don’t think that Turner nor the team really needs his (Turner’s) playing time to establish timing or rhythm.
We will find out about MPeterson and SNicholas Saturday night. Gates, LT & Sproles will provide a valid test of their true abilities. Wish them the best.
Our entire defensive backfield will also be tested; we’ll see how the young CBs and safeties perform against legitimate competition. Can’t wait to see how Moore does; hope he can stay healthy, his only question on draft day.
Not so worried about the DL, whether JA does anything or not. Think we will be OK with Abe, Bierman, Sid and Davis at DE; and Lewis, Babs, TJ, Walker and Jerry (who I hope does well) at DT. My question for everyone who wants to keep JA if he doesn’t start: can he perform on ST?
All questions are on defense, don’t really have any concerns about this offense no matter how this game turns out.

GO BIRDS!!

JJ

August 28th, 2009
1:26 pm

Unca’Bob- either reno911 or maybe SW.

CBrass – j/k, no offense I hope :) !

Found this while doing some research:

Lawrence Sidbury Jr., ATL – DE
Overlooked at Richmond, the two-time all-conference performer helped the Spiders win the FCS National Championship with 11.5 sacks on the season, including four in the championship game. He built on a strong week of practice at the Shrine Game with an excellent overall performance at the Combine. He is a bit shorter than ideal (slightly under 6’4”), but compensates for it with long arms and big hands, allowing him to keep blockers off him and bat down passes. He is considered a bit of tweener, but is his strong suit is pinning his ears back and getting after the QB out of a three-point stance. However, he needs to build some lower body strength to improve his explosion and play with leverage.

L-Sid is my top dynasty sleeper among DEs, I love this pick by Atlanta and the fit. Former first-round pick Jamaal Anderson is a bust at least as a pass rusher, if not a complete one. On the other side, John Abraham is one of the elite pass rushers in the league, but is the wrong side of 30 and overdue for an injury. Sidbury could surprise in redrafts as a pass rush specialist with room for more if Abraham misses time. He is even more appealing in dynasty rookie drafts where more recognizable names are going earlier.

Ken Strickland

August 28th, 2009
1:36 pm

The most amazing observation that seems to excape most fans is the fact that the best NFL teams seem to perform poorly during preseason while the poor teams seem to perform best. That’s because the better teams concentrate on tweeking certain aspects of their OFF/DEF during preseason, without being overly concerned about overall performance, while the lessor teams use preseason to try and develop/establish their entire OFF/DEF and a winning mentality.

Yet, we have fans spending a lot of time and effort complaining about the teams overall preseason performance, especially our DEF, without even considering the fact their hasn’t been a single mention of any concerns from our coaching staff. Maybe it’s not the teams preseason performsnce that’s the problem, but rather the loser mentality of certain fans. Maybe they want the team to foresake tweeking, developing, strengthing and evaluating certain aspect of our OFF/DEF, like the Superbowl calibur teams(Steerlers and Colts), in favor of going all out and winning preseason gms, like the losing teams(Detroit).

I still won’t be disappointed if the DEF didn’t have a strong complete gm against San Diego. While all NFL teams are evalusting players to fill out their roster, the Falcons are also evaluating players to fill out their starting DEF. And going into our 3rd preseason gm, no decision has been made, or announced, about who is the clearcut winner at either position of the 5 open positions at this point. So this gm is a very big evaluation process for the competing players and the coaching staff.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
1:44 pm

JJ,

I know. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it.

long time falcon

August 28th, 2009
2:39 pm

Ken, I agree that most of the preseason is for evaluation and game performance is way overrated. However, the 1st half of the 3rd preseason game is important, so if our defense stinks saturday night there will definently be some cause for concern. Mike Smith said our starters and major contributors will play the entire first half and even a couple series in the 3rd quarter. This game will give us fans a glimpse of what the coaching staff is thinking as far as who will be playing significant minutes on defense. The team we see saturday night will pretty much be who we are when the season starts. Starters will not play in the 4th preseason game, only guys battling for those last few roster spots. So after saturday there will be no more warm ups for our defense and training camp is over.

Q: Are you going to give your starters some more playing time this week?
A: “Yes, this week the rotation will be different. We’ll play our starters, or the guys that we feel will be major contributors, a lot longer. They’ll go through halftime and we’ll determine how long they will go in the second half. Right now, we are planning on getting those guys through halftime so they will have the opportunity to make adjustments with the coaching staff and get out and participate in the second half.”

JWW

August 28th, 2009
3:03 pm

This is gonna be a good, hard-nosed game with some big plays mixed in. I hope the offense will work on ball possession and clock management as much as scoring. I don’t think we will have that luxury next week against the ALWAYS angry Baltimore Ravens. In fact, I don’t want to see ANY starters on that field against the Ravens. They are injury-inflictors. Even Musa got hurt, and he was playing FOR them! And we all remember the horse collar on TB, and of course MV’s broken leg.

Can’t wait to see WAMoore on the field. I also can’t wait for Roster Spot Competition! Because that means we are even closer to “Toe meets Leather” for real (props to Al Ciraldo, the “enemy”).

I know I am late today, but did anybody notice that in last night’s Eagles’ game, the guy who recovered the fumble off the crumpled body of his teammate had his left foot out of bounds just before he recovered the ball crossed the line for a touchdown? Just wondering.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
4:54 pm

JWW – those of us with Comcast didn’t get that game – we had Tampa/Miami. And add those 3 games to our list of wins by the way.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
6:34 pm

Where is everyone!?!?

BlackTalon

August 28th, 2009
8:15 pm

D3- Nice job again.
UB- Nice post..somewhere up there.

I read reports saying,
LT won`t play for the Chargers, Shawn Merriam is slowing recovering from his injuries and a couple of their D-lineman are nicked and will not play or see limited action.

The Falcons seem to be healthy across the board with the return of William Moore.

What to watch for:
1)D-line pressure on passing downs.

2)Front sevens effectiveness at stopping the run.

3)How our young secondary holds up facing a 93 million dollar man.

It should be noted the Falcons (presumed) starting defence has allowed only 3 points, in about a half of a games work (so far) against lesser opponents.
Rivers and company present the defence thier first real challenge and they are a challenge they have actually game planned for.

We are about to learn a lot about the true make up and potiental of our revamped defence.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
8:49 pm

I’m watching the Skins and Patriots play and I’ll say if we give either one of these QB’s especially Brady all day to throw our secondary is going to have a long day!!!

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:00 pm

CBrass I guess we are it for tonight… Watching the game too… Well now I am

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:12 pm

Sarah B,

When we play Washington our O-Line is going to be key!!

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:13 pm

Yes it is, at least we play them at home.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:20 pm

The same goes for NE also. We have to bring our A+++++ game that day.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:25 pm

Yes we do but I have counted that game as one of our loses. 1 of 4 that is. So glad to have you in The Cage!!

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:27 pm

Maybe 5. At the worst that is.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:29 pm

Lately we have been a lonely bunch, except for us regulars.

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:35 pm

Sarah B,

Glad to be here. I think we can take Washington. NE they are just good and the thing that I like about them is that they’re always working to get better. They do not settle. That’s the mentality that TD is bringing to ATL.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
10:46 pm

yes it is!!!

Dawson Devitt (D3)

August 28th, 2009
10:47 pm

Hey Sarah and CBrass – I’ve noticed that Friday nights are a pretty dead time all around the Bird Cage. Kind of the same reason that emails drop to a stand still on Fridays at work. Everyone’s just trying to finish the week off and blow off some steam I guess. Saturday usually picks up in full force, particularly with a big game coming up tomorrow. Maybe all our Cagers are resting up for the huge draft day tomorrow.

Have a great night ladies. Hit you up tomorrow……

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
10:54 pm

Sarah B,

Within the next 2 or three years the Falcons will really be something special and TD is going to be the main reason. Not taking anything from Smitty or the coaching staff but we finally have someone that has a great eye for talent on both sides of the ball.

Boxcarar

August 28th, 2009
11:03 pm

D3,
Appreciate the offer for next year. I’ve never played FF, but this semester I’m taking four online courses, so I couldn’t if I wanted to. Does anyone know how many and which teams that we faced last year that played the 3-4, and our performance against said teams?
Sarah and CBrass, you aren’t always alone. Some of us just do homework and try to keep up on reading the posts.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
11:11 pm

Hi Boxcar, thanks for thalaught the other day on the
‘first thing’. LOL

CBrass

August 28th, 2009
11:17 pm

Sarah B/Boxcar,

The game is over and now I’m heading to bed. Always great chatting with you guys.

Sarah B

August 28th, 2009
11:17 pm

Ut Oh typos – sorry

long time falcon

August 28th, 2009
11:36 pm

Went to the dalton vs. calhoun game tonight and my fellow UGA fans will be excited to know that Darrick Rodgers is a stud. Calhoun won the game 31-28 much to my chagrin, I’m a dalton fan. But next year I will be able to cheer for Darrick. He caught a 70 yard touchdown and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, although one was called back for a penalty. This kid is big and strong and has blazing speed. Would not be suprised if he plays as true freshman just like AJ Green.

falcon21

August 28th, 2009
11:49 pm

Thank you LTF, that is great news. I’ve heard alot about that kid and it has all been good.