The Falcons are in Charm City tonight to take on the defending champs, the Baltimore Ravens. With so many questions on both sides of the ball, tonight's game could help Coach Mike Smith move a little closer to figuring who will win the position battles that have been tightly contested throughout camp.
Here are a few things to watch out for tonight against Baltimore:
OFFENSIVE LINE GETTING THE RUN GOING
Tonight will be the second game we'll see Lamar Holmes start at Right Tackle. Holmes, after a shaky first couple of series, shook off the nerves and looked good; particularly in pass protection last week against Cincinnati. The key here will be evaluating how well he does in opening up lanes for the running game. This goes for the rest of the offensive line as well. They were simply stuffed against Cincinnati's tough front seven, and things won't get any easier going against the Ravens' equally physical front seven tonight. Steven Jackson had nothing to work with last week, only running for eight yards on five carries. So it will be interesting to see if the Falcons running game can finally get going.
We'll also get our first look at Jeff Nady, who was signed on August 10. Nady is currently listed as the third Right Tackle on the depth chart.
RYAN VS. FLACCO
Ever since they were drafted in 2008, the comparisons between Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan haven't ceased. The endless debate to Flacco's ability to win in the postseason, to Matt Ryan's struggles in the postseason, to comparing both players' statistics, arm strength, what would have happened had Ryan been in Baltimore, etc. has raged on throughout both players accomplished five year careers.
So it's always fun when these two get together to do battle. The only regular season game in which they've met, the Falcons won at the Georgia Dome by a count of 26-21. Ryan finished 32/50 for 315 yards, 3 TD, while Flacco went 22/34 for 215 yards for 3 TD and 1 INT. Both players averaged 6.3 yards per pass in the game.
Last season's statistics:
Regular Season: 422/615, 4,719 yards, 68.6% completion percentage, 32 TD, 14 INT, 99.1 Passer Rating, 74.5 QBR
Postseason: 54/77, 646 yards, 70.1 completion percentage, 6 TD, 3 INT, 105.2 Passer Rating, 86.6 QBR
Regular Season: 317/551, 3,817 yards, 59.7% completion percentage, 22 TD, 10 INT, 87.7 Passer Rating, 48.7 Quarterback Rating
Postseason: 73/126, 1,140 yards, 57.9% completion percentage, 11 TD, 0 INT, 117.2 passer rating, 83.6 QBR
Ryan threw the ball more then Flacco leading to more yards, touchdowns and interceptions during the regular season. Ryan also had a higher completion percentage, passer rating and QBR.
Flacco had the better postseason however, dwarfing Ryan in every statistical category except for QBR.
Ryan had the superior regular season, but Flacco had the better postseason in not just stats, but claiming the ultimate prize, the Super Bowl.
Even the way they play is similar. Both players signed absurdly high contract extensions in the offseason. Flacco's contract is worth $120.6 million over six seasons and Ryan's is worth $103.75 million over five seasons.
Both players should get more time to play tonight than they did last week, as should the rest of the starters.
With the great news that Sean Weatherspoon was back at practice this week, Falcons fans could breathe a little easier regarding the state of the linebacker corps. But 'Spoon is not playing tonight against the Ravens for precautionary reasons, so we'll get another spoonful (couldn't resist) of our undrafted free agent linebackers in action.
Paul Worrilow stood out last week, recording a game high 12 tackles, and was flying up and down the field, aggressively pursuing the ball carrier and making plays.
None of the other UDFAs (undrafted free agents) linebackers really stepped up last week, and some didn't really get enough playing time to step up. Brian Banks didn't enter the game until well into the 4th quarter.
Look tonight for many of these players to get an extended look: Robert James, Joplo Bartu, Pat Schiller, Paul Worrilow and Nick Clancy.
Despite Worrilow's outstanding play last week, he remains third on the depth chart at OLB behind Stephen Nicholas and Nick Clancy.
Expect Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford to get some good action tonight as the rookies look to get their second taste of real game NFL action. Alford had arguably a better game last weekend when it came to pass coverage finishing with two passes defended to Trufant's 0.
Alford is still behind Trufant when it comes to starting on the depth chart, but that hasn't deterred the challenger. If anything, it's motivated him to play even harder. He told the ajc.com's D. Orlando Ledbetter that he wanted to be the defensive player of the year.
He's playing with a full head of steam right now and is covering his man a bit better than Trufant did last game. This ultimately doesn't decide anything as it's just one game, and there are three preseason games left. But this is turning out to be the position battle that Falcons fans were looking for when the Falcons spent their first two draft picks on these two young corners.
Start Time: The game is at 7:30 EST.
TV/Radio: CBS/790 The Zone, (Atlanta area)
Instant Updates: If you can't catch the game, check back for updates on our twitter. We will be updating live from M&T Bank Stadium. Yes, Falcons 101 will be at the game tonight.
After it's over, we'll have a full post game report.. So come back to the site to get our impressions after the game.
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