In Week 5 of the Atlanta Falcons season, they will head up to Washington D.C. to face off against the Robert Griffin led Redskins. The Falcons (according to my previous previews) have had tremendous success on both sides of the ball, and I believe that will continue in week 5. The Falcons are about to finish what I believe will be the soft spot of their 2012 schedule, so they absolutely need to make this week count.
The Washington Redskins will not be an offense to scoff at during 2012. With explosive-play-waiting-to-happen quarterback RGIII, the Redskins will always have the ability to make things happen on that side of the ball. Their offensive line may not be the strongest in the league, but that won’t be necessary with Griffin playing qb. Through the design of bootlegs and roll-outs, the ‘Skins will not have to rely on a pocket passing quarterback: Griffin will be able to move the pocket, and the line will be able to set the pocket up all around the field. The key for the Falcons’ defense will be to set the edge against RGIII, and not allow him to elude pressure to the outside. That means the Falcons must play excellent contain against him and force him to go through the linebackers for positive yardage. Griffin isn’t the same type of player that Cam Newton is, and won’t be able to simple bowl through linebackers with reckless abandon; Griffin will go to the ground. It will be up to guys like Ray Edwards and Kroy Biermann to set the edge and force the QB back to the inside where he is considerably less dangerous. I think a young Robert Griffin will certainly try to force some throws he easily made in college, and will pay the price in the form of interceptions.
The Redskins have very little in the way of offensive weapons. The two starting receivers on the team will be Pierre Garcon (the former Colt) and Santana Moss. Moss hasn’t done much of anything lately, and isn’t likely to draw any attention away from Garcon. Garcon will routinely be subject to bracketed coverage, and won’t be able to be as effective as he was in Indianapolis. He certainly won’t be effective against the Falcons in week 5. Fred Davis is a good receiving tight end, and will likely be RGIII’s favorite target. However, it doesn’t look good for a team whose best runningback is Roy Helu.
The defensive side of the ball is where Washington has made hay the last couple years, and I wouldn’t expect that to change much in 2012. The Redskins run a 3-4 defense, so their playmakers are primarily in at the linebacker level in addition to the defensive backfield. They have big, solid guys up front in Barry Cofield and Jarvis Jenkins who can eat up blocks and allow the linebackers to make plays. That starts with extremely veteran player London Fletcher, who has been in the league for 15 years, and shows no signs of departing anytime soon. He is still a terrific all-around linebacker. Add in OLB Brian Orakpo and the linebacking corps has the ability to stuff the run as well as get after the quarterback. And if the pass-rush can be at least solid the defensive backs can make plays on the ball…
….which leads us to the defensive backs. This has really been the strength of the Washington defense for several years. These players sometimes give up big plays defensively game after game, but they certainly have the talent and ability to make game-changing plays when they get their acts together. The best example of this is CB DeAngelo Hall. He seems squeamish about playing the run, he doesn’t particularly like tackling, he blows coverage often, and he isn’t necessarily the best teammate. Sometimes he has games where he is an unstoppable force. I remember a game from 2010 where he picked off Jay Cutler and the Bears 4 times in one game. He also knocked down a couple passes. He is extremely fast and can make the plays, but sometimes he just can’t get his head in the game. Also looking in the defensive backfield, the Redskins lost safety LaRon Landry in free-agency to the New York Jets. Landry was in my mind, the best and hardest hitting safety in the NFL, and took his talents to New York. He didn’t have great ball skills, but his ability to close on the receiver and deliver punishing hits right as the ball arrived made him a great safety. And luckily the Falcons don’t have to face Landry. They will be able to pick on Hall or the other DBs instead.
I don’t think there is any doubting the Falcons ability to score points when needed, or to play good defense when needed. The Redskins are a team with a franchise quarterback who will take them to great heights, but I doubt it will lead them to a week 5 win. Griffin is just too young and without enough weapons to be successful against the veteran Falcons defense, and Atlanta’s offense is good and smart enough to where they have the ability score on anyone, especially the lowly Redskins. They haven’t done much to bolster their defense, and I have no doubt that the Falcons will benefit from that and score a good bit. Final score: Falcons 38- Redskins 17.
NOTE: If you have been following along on my week-by-week preview of the Falcons 2012 schedule, you will notice by this time that the Falcons are 5-0 by my count. Does that mean they will be 5-0 at the end of week 5 of the regular season? No, nothing is certain. But if you look at the opponents the Falcons are facing, where they are facing them, and what weaknesses the Falcons can expose and what strengths they can use, I feel very confident in the Falcons chances to be undefeated up to this point. Besides, this is the portion of the schedule the Falcons need to build a lot of victories very quickly–the schedule after the BYE week is brutal.