The Atlanta Falcons are starting over with a new coaching staff - Head Coach Dan Quinn, coming over from Seattle, Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, a bust at Cleveland and Washington, and Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith, a long-time NFL assistant.
They are not particularly talented, which is why Mike Smith got canned. They can throw the ball - sixth in the league in passing yards a year ago - but run it badly - 24th a year ago. On defense, well, they can't stop anybody. Dead last in yards a year ago. They have a terrific quarterback in Matt Ryan, who can make every throw there is and Julio Jones who is on the short list for best receiver in the NFL. Elsewhere...not so much.
What they run:
Atlanta's offense is based on the outside zone, which Kyle's daddy ran at Denver and Washington. They run primarily out of 21 personnel (two backs and one tight end).
They use a fullback, and they have shown the pistol in pre-season,
They often go with two TEs.
as well as an unbalanced line.
Here's a stretch right off the unbalanced line right shown above.
We can see what they're after. The edge is blocked pretty well. If the back can get to the corner he may score. But no. The center is crushed, driven back into the QB and the play has no chance.
The run game is almost exclusively outside zone stuff, a/k/a the stretch. They do not run much by way of traps or powers, nor do they pull their linemen. It's what Alex Gibbs taught 20 years ago in Denver. Basically, everybody takes a step to the play side, the TE and OT double on the outside defender, the FB leads, and the back side linemen cut block.
On that same play:
Two cut blocks. One of the reasons this approach works as well as it does is that defenders have to protect their knees. It distracts them from their primary work. It's dirty football but it's within the rules.
Going back to that pistol formation:
Mooney is the fullback. He has some, um, limitations. Here, he's the lead blocker out of that pistol formation.
Note the cut block on #90.
<Raises hands in surrender.> We also see the downside of cut blocking. When you miss, you're on the ground and he's not.
Atlanta is very heavy on play action. With rare exceptions, the QB lines up under center. In obvious passing situations, Ryan will go out of the gun but on most throws he shows play action starting under center. Ryan shows bootleg action on almost every play and when he keeps it he'll look first to Jones, either up the hash or on deep crossing patterns. Jones flops to both sides. Ryan doesn't throw much to the tight end but he does like Mooney, the fullback, leaking through the line and breaking to the sideline, like this:
Power I. The WR goes in motion, which he'll convert to an orbit look.
Watch the FB. Lead block?
Sure looks like it as he bounces off the MLB.
Ryan looks long for Jones...
...but comes off him and hits Mooney after he clears the LB. Helps that there was no pass rush.
Last look, and how they get Julio Jones wide open. He's to the bottom of the screen.
Your basic "pro" set. Almost antiquated in today's game. The flanker to the top of the screen goes in motion.
Note that the safety has dropped out. Jones is now the slot receiver.
And Jones runs into the area vacated by the safety. The LB has cleared forward because of the play action. Easy pitch and catch.
Not saying that the secondary played this well, but it's clear from the play design how this was supposed to go, and it did.
Atlanta runs a 4-3 under and they play a lot of zone behind it. On run downs they'll show a single safety high - usually Allen - and on obvious passing downs they'll play two safeties deep and either quarters or a Tampa-2. The DBs may show press occasionally but they back out of it.
Here's the single high:
Their top choice, Vic Beasley #44 and eighth pick overall, lines up all over the place, usually with his hand down. He's strictly finesse at this stage. Desmond Trufant is a very nice young DB. The rest? Meh.
When the Eagles have the ball:
Atlanta can't stop the run. Period. Pick on the rookie. Go right at Beasley, especially when he lines up on the defensive right side.
They can't stop the pass either, because their safeties are, well, bad. Trufant aside, they lack team speed. I look for Matthews to have a huge game. They have no one with a prayer of covering Sproles.
When Atlanta has the ball:
This is a good match-up for the Eagles because Atlanta runs their base 21 personnel so much. Davis has said he wants to run his base defense a lot and Atlanta will allow him to do that. The Falcons' OL is patchwork, to put it kindly. Left tackle Jake Matthews is the best of the lot. Three weeks into the pre-season, they traded for Andre Levitre to play LG. Levitre gave up nine sacks a year ago, dreadful for an interior lineman. He's lining up next to Mike Person, who has never started a game. How bad are the rest? They had Jake Long in for a tryout this week with the hope of starting him this game! Ugh.
Big edge to the Eagles since Hester will not play.
Before I started this I thought it might be close. The more I look, the better I like this match-up.