The Falcons have long been a preseason staple for Baltimore, having played numerous years when the two don't meet when it matters.
Once again, this Thursday, the two teams will square off in a preseason contest. Therefore, Baltimore Beatdown asked The Falcoholic's Dave Choate five questions about the Falcons to get a better feel for what Baltimore to expect this time around.
Here's what had to say:
Question: How has Steven Jackson looked so far this preseason? With how Atlanta has passed the ball the last couple of years, do you think his presence offers more balance and could take away plays from the passing game?
Dave Choate: In the first game, he looked middling in picking up only eight yards on five carries, though I'm inclined to pick on the offensive line for that one. In practices he's looked as beastly as we all expect S-Jax to be, rumbling over linemen and flashing that terrifying combination of power and speed. As long as the line isn't in shambles, I think he'll have a quality season for the Falcons.
While we'd appreciate it if Jackson ran more effectively than Michael Turner, who averaged under four yards a carry in 2012, his pass-catching out of the backfield is what makes him a nice fit for this offense.
Q: How dynamic is the Roddy White/Julio Jones duo becoming? Not many teams have a receiver tandem as dangerous as them.
DC: Incredibly dynamic, because they offer different looks for defenses. White has always had a propensity for getting open against even the best cornerbacks, and he makes incredibly tough catches in traffic look routine. Jones, meanwhile, has the straight line speed, power and size to make him one of the league's premier downfield threats. It's difficult to contain either of them for a full game, much less both of them.
As long as Matt Ryan is around to get them the ball, they should be one of-if not the-top tandems in the NFL this season.
Q: William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have had ample time to grow in Atlanta's back end now. Where do you see them in relation to other NFL safety groups?
DC: Moore and DeCoud form one of the best playmaking safety tandems in the NFL. Both have a knack for forcing turnovers and victimizing Drew Brees, which has made them local heroes. They're an integral safety net for cornerbacks who like to gamble, too, with the athleticism to catch and drag down receivers if something goes awry up front.
The caveats? Neither is a consistent, wrap-up tackler, though Moore in particular is a big hitter. Both have occasional lapses in coverage. If they can paper over those weaknesses this year, they're certainly Top 10, and likely closer to top five.
Q: Mike Smith's a big believer in the defensive line being where success starts on defense. With Osi Umenyiora in for John Abraham, do you expect this group to getter, stand pat or possibly decline? In addition, are there any other contributors expected to take a next leap with this unit?
DC: I actually expect improvement. The Falcons were extremely aggressive this off-season about adding young talent to the rotation at both defensive end and at defensive tackle. Osi Umenyiora may not be a huge step up over John Abraham, but he's a little younger and should be able to play more snaps and be impactful. Rookie Malliciah Goodman and second-year pass rusher Jonathan Massaquoi have looked good thus far in preseason and could be part of the solution to what has traditionally been an anemic pass rush.
The question becomes run stopping. The Falcons are attempting to remedy that by cross-training Cliff Matthews between defensive end and defensive tackle, because the former seventh round pick is very effective up-front. It'll be an interesting group to watch, and I do think we will finally see quality, consistent play up front.
Q: What do you expect from Atlanta Thursday night and who are some young, up-and-coming guys to look out for?
DC: The Falcons simply don't play to win in preseason, content to let the starters knock some rust off and then give the backups a ton of run. I expect the Ravens to win handily, with a few impressive performances from Falcons reserves that will help the coaches sift through some the promising young talent on this team and find some gems.
A few names to look out for: Paul Worrilow, the linebacker who racked up 12 tackles against the Bengals a week ago. Robert Alford, the physical, speedy rookie cornerback who has sky-high potential. And Julio Jones, because holy crap is he fun to watch.
To read more about the Falcons, visit SB Nation's The Falcoholic.
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