It is not at all easy to stop a train. A locomotive with a head of steam can take miles to halt.
Mike Nolan has to figure out how to stop the train – the running game of opposing teams.
The locomotives like Cam Newton, Doug Martin, both who the Falcons play twice, and the likes of
Keapernick, Russell, Washington’s RG3 and Morris, or even Aaron Rogers to a degree are the runaway trains that have given the Birds a lot of headaches in the past and after Cincinnati gained 230 yards on the ground in the first preseason game, led by Josh Johnson with a sixteen yard average per carry, there is a
whistle in my ear signaling a bit of a concern. DOL of the AJC wrote five things to watch in the Falcon – Raven preseason game between the birds. First time I ever disagreed with this gentleman when I noticed stopping the run was not listed. This is a passing league now. Success running the ball is for teams of long ago or any roster with Adrian Peterson. Moving the chains via the rush is a time eating, defense being kept on the field diesel monster. Opposing success at this keeps Ryan and his offense watching from the sidelines. I’d like our chances better if Atlanta was in an old fashioned Air Coryell type shoot out, where our best weapons can match up well against anybody. Even the Falcon secondary with rookies still learning gives a bit of a hope at a turnover via the pass with the new athletic young legs, a savvy veteran in Samual and two very solid safeties. Atlanta was 21st against the run last year, and we have done little to change the bulk on our defensive line. Division rival Carolina was a 7 – 9 team last year and Atlanta was fortunate to split the series with them, because Cam Newton averaged a hundred yards on the ground in the two games. It is a very bad sign when a quarterback rushes for a hundred yards over your D. This is not a college league. That’s a lot of chasing and getting tired by the defense unit, and it opens up even a mediocre passing attack.
The defensive line of Biermann, Babs, Peters and Uminyiora total the scale at 1,118 pounds. Even if Kroy drops to linebacker and Massaquoi comes in, while Robertson subs for Peters the Birds line weighs in at 1,131 pounds. Tampa’s offensive line of Penn, Nicks, Zuttah, Joseph and Dotson hit around 1,627 pounds total. That’s a lot of beef (500lb difference) to move around when you are trying to stop the 220 lb runaway train of Doug Martin. Carolina is just a hundred pounds shy of Tampa’s offensive line.
The obvious answer to this dilemma is the linebacker crew. On paper I totally think ‘Spoon, Dent, Nicholas,
Schiller are solid, but if covering tight ends and stopping the run has been a defensive problem in the past can we expect another year under Nolan to improve significantly enough or look for help from a speedier Worrilow and Bartu to give Nolan match ups to our advantage? I hear that whistle again !!!
I thought after Ryan signed we’d get one more lineman on the D side, but with the Johnson injury any lineman may now be spent on the O side. It will be interesting to see the next couple of preseason games and who rises up to the top, if we need another piece to the equation, or if Nolan can perfect the system of confusion enough to gain equal if not higher ground for the Falcon defense that needs to stop the run which is as I see it the largest hurdle this team must leap. I want teams to pass against the birds, for the secondary is as good as Atlanta has had for many years and the rookie mistakes can be nullified by the offense, but they can’t be on the field most of the game and have that offense watching the clock along with Smitty. I trust the Falcon brass will address this priority during the rest of August for there is always a light at the end of a tunnel, I just hope it is not a train.