Keys for success in the NFC South

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The Falcons have had a busy offseason thus far which culminated in nine draft picks and several acquisitions including notable free agents Dwight Lowery, Devin Hester, Bear Pascoe and rookies Prince Shembo, Jake Matthews, and Davonta Freeman. The Falcons are looking to have a drastic improvement from last season. Their success this season is contingent on their ability to neutralize their divisional foes. Here are some approaches the Falcons could possibly use against each of their divisional opponents this season.

 

Against New Orleans:

The Saints’ finished fourth in the NFL last season in overall defense. The drastic improvement from 2012, where that defense was ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed, is attributed by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan scored immediate success implementing a 3-4 defensive scheme for New Orleans. The Falcons struggled in the ground attack against Ryan’s 3-4 defense as they averaged 89.5 yards per game rushing as a team. However, the Falcons need to attack that Saints’ defense this season by establishing the run early on. With the 1-2 punch of power back Steven Jackson and rookie Davonta Freeman, the Falcons should have no problem accomplishing this task. The Falcons have made enhancements on the offensive line during the offseason, including the first round selection of Jake Matthews, for this very reason. That is to develop a strong run game in order to open up their powerful aerial assault led by Matt Ryan and the potency of the receiving corps consisting of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas. Not to mention the tight ends Bear Pascoe and Levi Toilolo who could be an added dimension to run protection as well as an integral part to the passing game and an extra security blanket for the offense in pass protection against blitz packages of the Saints’ defense. Offensive neutralization of the Saints’ defense is the ultimate key for the Falcons to amass any type of success against the Saints this season.

 

Against Carolina:

Basically the Falcons need to apply the same strategies used against New Orleans in order to oust Carolina’s ferocious defense who finished last season second in the league in fewest points allowed . The only difference is the style of defense ran by the Panthers as they run a 4-3 as opposed to the 3-4 ran by New Orleans. Furthermore, the Falcons transition to a 3-4 defense will be a crucial factor in defending against the rushing attack of Carolina. The Panthers have a plethora of running backs that the Falcons will have to worry about in their two divisional matchups that include DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Kenjon Barner, and rookie Tyler Gaffney from Stanford in addition to the mobility of Cam Newton in the running game. This could explain why the Falcons drafted four linebackers in order to add speed and versatility which are important elements in stopping the run. Rookie Prince Shembo could possibly play a significant role in the new 3-4 scheme with the tumultuous season-ending injury to Sean Weatherspoon. However, the offseason acquisitions of Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson and emergence of the Falcons’ linebacker corps, should compensate for the loss of Weatherspoon. It’s ultimately up to the Falcons’ defense as a unit to defend against Cam and the rushing attack. Containing Carolina’s running attack will play a huge role in Atlanta having success against the Panthers this upcoming season.

Against Tampa Bay:

With the drafting of wide out Mike Evans in the first round to complement Vincent Jackson in Tampa’s receiving corps one thing is for sure for the two receivers: They both have size at 6-foot-5. This could be a huge advantage for Tampa Bay on offense as first-year Bucs’ offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will look to exploit the Falcons’ corners in one-on-one coverage situations. The average height of the Falcons’ corners range from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot even. All things considered, Atlanta will need significant help over the top with their safeties William Moore and newly-acquired Dwight Lowery. However, with the Falcons’ new 3-4 defense, the primary key for success against Tampa Bay is to get an immense amount of pass rush against whoever Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback may be. If the Falcons’ can accomplish this it can offset the size advantage Tampa’s receivers Evans and Jackson have over Falcons’ corners and remove the element of pass attack by bringing enormous pressure against the quarterback and forcing him into ill-advised throws. Again defense will play a significant role in success against the Buccaneer’s in their two divisional matchu

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