The meeting between the Falcons and Dolphins brings two of the best up and coming teams to battle as both franchises made an unbelievably quick turnaround from dismal years in 2007. The two teams bring some similarities to the Terror-Dome on Sunday. Both teams are run-first, ball-control offenses that like to establish the run early and often, which paves the way for an extremely productive day in the passing game. Both teams limit mistakes as much as possible and play hard-nosed, disciplined football. Coach Smith and Coach Sparano, the Coach of the Year winner and runner-up respectively, get their teams prepared on a weekly basis. A look at the position-by-position match-ups:
2008 Team Ranks
Atlanta: Rush Defense – 25th; Pass Defense – 21st; Total Defense – 24th
Miami: Rush Offense – 11th; Pass Offense – 10th; Total Offense – 12th
Falcons D-Tackles vs. Dolphins Interior OL
RDT – Peria Jerry/Trey Lewis vs LG – Justin Smiley
LDT – Jonathan Babineaux vs RG – Donald Thomas
Peria Jerry and Trey Lewis look to get a big dose of road-grading Smiley who started 12 games in a pretty prolific running offense last year paving the way ahead for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, not to mention the threat of seeing the Wildcat formation with Pat White on occasion. Babineaux will be paired against Thomas, who only recorded one start for the ‘Fins last year. The new look D-Tackles look to get an early test.
Advantage – Birds
RDE – Jamaal Anderson/Chauncey Davis vs. LT – Jake Long
LDE – John Abraham/Kroy Biermann vs. RT – Vernon Carey
This will be where the defense makes or breaks in terms of pressure. Jamaal Anderson, Chauncey Davis, or Lawrence Sidbury will get an early baptism to the start of the new season by running up against Pro-Bowler Jake Long. The number one overall draft pick from 2008, Long possesses a special blend of run power-driving and excellent pass blocking. Abraham will look to jumpstart a replication of his Pro-Bowl worthy year by scrapping with rock-solid Vernon Carey, who has started every game but two at right tackle the past four years. Biermann will be in quick rotation with Abe, and may even be starting at RDE.
Advantage – Fins
Falcons LBs vs. Dolphins TEs/FB/C
MLB – Curtis Lofton vs. C – Jake Grove
SLB – Stephen Nicholas vs. TE – Anthony Fasano
WLB – Mike Peterson vs. FB – Lousaka Polite/TE – David Martin
The Falcons will break in their brand new linebacker corps against a working-mans blocking and pass receiving group. Curtis Lofton should have a good match-up against Grove, who’s only started 14 games in the last two seasons. Fasano isn’t the flashiest tight ends, but is extremely productive and is one of Pennington’s favorite targets. Nicholas will have his work cut out for him in pass coverage. Peterson will have many double tight end looks and will have show better pass drops and mobility than preseason.
Advantage – Tie
Falcons Secondary vs. Dolphins Skill Players
CB – Chris Houston vs. WR – Ted Ginn Jr.
CB – Brent Grimes vs. WR – Davone Bess
Nickel – Chevis Jackson vs. Slot WR – Greg Camarillo
SS – Erik Coleman vs. RB – Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams
FS – Thomas DeCoud vs. QB – Chad Pennington
The biggest issue of preseason finds itself not with the best receiving corps, but one of the most efficient. The incredibly poor play of the cornerbacks are matched up with quick and fast receivers who aren’t the best possession wideouts, but can catch the ball and burn. Grimes, Houston, and Jackson will have their hands full with Ginn Jr., Bess, and Camarillo working tons of underneath routes. Chad Pennington had one of the best comebacks of the year in 2008, throwing for over 3,600 yards, 19 TDS, and a 67% completion percentage. He may not possess the best arm, but Pennington is one of the best in the short and intermediate passing attack. When healthy, Ronnie Brown is one of the best running backs in the league. Brown possesses a rare combination of extreme speed and brute power. Coleman, DeCoud, will have to bring their A-Games to contain Brown and Ricky Williams. They will need all the help they can get from the defensive line and linebackers.
Advantage – Fins
Falcons Offense vs. Dolphins Defense
Atlanta: Rush Offense – 2; Pass Offense – 14; Total Offense – 6
Miami: Rush Defense – 10; Pass Defense – 25; Total Defense – 15
Falcons O-Line vs. Dolphins DL/ILBs
LT – Sam Baker vs. DE – Kendall Langford
LG – Justin Blaylock vs. ILB – Channing Crowder
C – Todd McClure vs. NT – Jason Ferguson
RG – Harvey Dahl – ILB – Akin Ayodele
RT – Tyson Clabo vs. DE – Randy Starks
Ferguson may not be a sack machine, but he does his job well of stuffing the middle and allowing the other playmakers to fly to the ball, but the vet McClure should be fine. Baker and Clabo won’t have the toughest opponents with their 2-gap defenders, but they will have to worry all day about the two best players on the defense, Joey Porter & Jason Taylor, moving, scheming, and speed blitzing. Harvey Dahl will be taking his nasty style to Adoyele, but Blalock will draw Crowder, who is one of the better young and tough inside linebackers in the league. Even though many 3-4 defenses can be susceptible to the run, the Fins ranked in the top third of the league in run defense last year.
Advantage – Birds
Falcons TE/FB vs. Dolphins Playmakers
TE – Tony Gonzalez vs. OLB – Joey Porter
FB – Ovie Mughelli vs. OLB – Jason Taylor
This one should be one of the most fun to watch on Sunday. Out of the four above, 3 have an excellent chance of getting enamored in Canton for the Hall of Fame. Watching new addition Gonzalez have to deal with Porter and Taylor’s quickness will be interesting to watch, just as much fun as watching them trying to defend TG in the passing game. Porter and Taylor will hope to causing Matt Ryan fits all day.
Advantage – Tie
Falcons Playmakers vs. Dolphins Secondary
WR – Roddy White vs. CB – Will Allen
WR – Michael Jenkins vs. CB – Sean Smith
Slot – Brian Finneran vs. Nickel – Vontae Davis
RB – Michael Turner/Jerious Norwood vs. SS – Yeremiah Bell
QB – Matt Ryan vs. FS – Gibril Wilson
Advantage – Birds
There you have it Bird Cagers, all the match-ups you should see on Sunday around 1 pm in the Terror-Dome. If you’re heading down to the game, get up and get your juices revved and ready to go. This one looks to be an extremely hard-nosed, tough-fought contest between two well-coached teams. Our Falcons will need all the help they can get from the 12th man, so make it intolerably loud for the visiting Dolphins and send them home with an opening loss!
-What’s your thoughts on the match-ups?
-Which ones do the Falcons have an advantage in?
-Which ones do the Dolphins look better with?