1. There were quite a few naysayers with regard to Matt Ryan last season. Other than simply winning games, what is so different about him this season?
Bringing in Dirk Koetter has brought about a huge change in mentality and game plan for the Falcons. Matt Ryan is allowed to take control of the offense, take shots downfield and play more aggresively. He looks confident now. He looks like he knows he can make whatever pass he wants. It's been a conservative style of play in recent years, but this season the reins have been loosened.
2. This is a series of questions about Julio Jones. I've noticed Julio Jones dropping a lot of passes right on his hands lately. Is that a new thing? What do you think his issue is? Do you think he is worth the picks that were given up to acquire him in the draft?
To be fair, the majority of the drops I've seen haven't come in just your average receiving situation. Jones has barely missed on deep shots down the sideline. He's a freak of nature, but you can't expect him to make every highlight reel catch. He also suffered a hand laceration in Week 3, and while he says its not a problem, we have no idea how much of an issue it's been.
In regards to the draft, everyone wanted to make a judgement call on the trade right after the it happened. You can't really determine what the worth of a trade like that is until you've seen it play out a bit. I think we can all agree giving up multiple picks for Julio was well worth the cost. He's a dominant receiver who can't be left in single coverage. With him lining up across from Roddy, how can defenses expect to stop the aerial assault? I supported the Falcons when they moved up to get him, and I still support them with that decision today.
3. With the season Tony Gonzalez is having, do you think that 5% chance he gives for his return is growing?
Honestly, how can it not be? He doesn't look like he's lost a step at all. Gonzalez leads the team in receptions and is tied for first in touchdown catches. And it's not like he's just wide open every play. He does benefit from the extra coverage put on Julio and Roddy on the outside, but he's been as physical as ever each game, and he can still finish on a nice fade route as well.
It would seem the playoffs this year will make up his mind. But, even if they don't make a run, Tony G does have a family, and he's been playing in the NFL since 1997. Not every player wants to hold onto to their playing career until there's absolutely nothing left in the tank. We'd all love to see him stick around. It's just a case where we'll have to wait and see what he thinks.
4. What is an aspect of this team that has it playing so well which outsiders may not notice?
Linemen are often the unsung heroes of football teams, as they aren't the ones making the highlight reel each week. Atlanta's offensive was a huge problem last season, but the front five are playing at a much higher level in 2012. Sam Baker in particular deserves a ton of credit. Despite struggling since coming into the league in 2008 and constantly get berated by fans, Baker has turned it around this year. We still see issues at time, but you have to like what you've seen so far.
5. It appears the weakness for the Falcons is their run defense due to their giving up 5.4 yards per carry. What do you see as the reason for it?
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is still figuring out his team. It seems like they've focused primarily on stopping opposing passers, and while that's worked considering they rank seventh in the league in pass defense, the run defense hasn't taken a hit in lieu of that strategy. The Falcons have been playing in the nickel formation often throughout the first five weeks. Middle linebacker Akeem Dent has only been in on 90 total snaps. We might see different packages used going forward to help even things out against opposing runners. They aren't setting the edge at times, and running backs are finding room to bounce outside. The Falcons are giving up an average of 7.5 yards per carry on runs to left edge, and 7.28 yards per carry to runners going to the right end. They need to lock down the edges and make that wall in the middle. It's certainly something Mike Smith wants to improve right away.
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