About time the regular season got here.
Hopefully you read the last DDDB, which explains my new super-fortunate Falcons situation; I am typing this with my fingers crossed, praying that my luck continues and I'm again in the press box for the September 13 home opener.
Just as it's time for the players to get serious, it's time for me to buckle down. I've got a job to do each and every week, or more exactly, every day. Gotta stay on top, especially if I'm to be in the nirvana that is the Dome.
I was criticized heavily by Lions faithful when I wrote an overly pro-Falcons preseason game preview, and I have generally kept the tone pretty light in my columns. No more. This is the new DDDB: leaner, meaner, and way more in-your-face.
Oh, who am I kidding? You know what to expect from me by now, so why quit?
I may have moved on in terms of where I view games (couch to media level), but it's the same old me.
And the same old preview format. How does it go?
Miami Rush Offense v. Atlanta Rush Defense
When it comes to the Phins' ground game, we'll be treated to a little R & R. Ronnie (Brown) and Ricky (Williams), that is.
Theirs are the names to drop because they form not only a sick running attack, but also because they have both done an excellent job adapting to the Wildcat that Miami started last year. They were rested exceedingly well during the preseason, with neither getting over five carries except for the instance of Brown getting seven in Game Two.
That gave Lex Hilliard and Patrick Cobbs plenty of time to get acclimated, which is all the more bad news for us.
Not that I'm that down on the rush D here in ATL; there are several reasons to believe we're going to take not just the one (expected) step forward as the regular season begins, but perhaps an additional one beyond that.
Peria Jerry, thank you, my boy. After I hated so much and for so long, you put on a pretty good show in your action this past Thursday evening. I will be so bold as to say you almost made me think you were a run-stopping tackle, rather than a rusher. Keep it up, man!
The fact that we won't be rotating in Vance Walker (cut) anymore is helpful, but I'm just excited about seeing what kind of a wall Jonathan Babineaux and Jerry can combine to make. Obviously, neither Brown nor Williams is confined to straight-up-the-middle runs, but that's always a key.
On reverses and from the edge, though, I've got to have my doubts, especially if they're attacking via direct snap. John Abraham will be concentrating on Jake Long, no doubt, Jamaal Anderson still hasn't proved he can be relied on (for anything), and Curtis Lofton can only be so many places at one time.
I've got faith that Coach Mike Smith will prepare the boys for both the traditional rushes and the Wildcat plays. Thing is, you can't be completely ready for both on every down.
Atlanta Rush Offense v. Miami Rush Defense
To see Michael Turner for more than a quarter...this has been my dream since about February. Finally, all these wishes upon stars will come true!
Yeah, but anyway, the Burner didn't need more than two rushes in each preseason game to completely convince me that he's going to be no different on the field this year. Now, hopefully, he won't have to carry the number of times he did last year (we'd just be begging for an injury then), but I'm pretty sure that if push came to shove and he did have it in his hands another 350 times, he'd be just as effective.
So good luck, old-as-dirt Jason Ferguson and newbie Kendall Langford. You'll need it, as you're at a disadvantage both against my Dirty Bird powerback and your teammate Dolphins linebackers, who will undoubtedly want to give you both swirlies after you let Turner get to the second level again and again.
Alright, that was a little harsh; I'll give Ferguson the fact that he is, in his old age, still a pretty good clog, and Langford gets a nod based solely on the fact that he's won a starting job in his second year out of Hampton (where?). Plus, the third starter (Randy Starks) and one guy who rotates in (Paul Soliai) have a good mix of starting experience and athleticism.
And of course, those aforementioned linebackers will indeed do much to make up for shortcomings on the line. Turner will push, but I'm resigned to the fact that someone in the middle four will probably swallow him. Between speedy Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele and greybeards Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, most runs are probably going to stop after about five yards.
Of course, if you pick up five yards on every play, you're never even going to face third down...
I don't fear a whole lot of backfield penetration by the backers, but I'll just note that if Porter or Taylor were to get around the line, Tony Gonzalez will be the man that needs to match up and block. I know he can, but he hasn't been called upon for this duty in a while, at least not against a corps like this.
Miami Pass Offense v. Atlanta Pass Defense
Sports media world: Why all the doubting of the Dolphins' receivers? I actually really like this group. Besides, they're playing our secondary, so they're bound to look like stars.
Sorry. Before I get all negative, I'll talk about what's good: Miami's sudden depth at this position.
(See what I did there?)
Anyway, the Dolphins did an excellent job of getting guys several chances in preseason games, and nearly everyone did pretty well in at least one game. Sure, Brian Hartline dipped towards the end of exhibition, but that just allowed Davone Bess to shine. And after all, Hartline was being talked about as a starter not a week ago, so he can't be all bad, now can he?
I think everyone has said this at some point, but I expect big things from Greg Camarillo, and I'm willing to bet he's even healthier than he showed in the preseason. He'll have no trouble torching Brent Grimes and will certainly abuse Chris Owens when his back is turned.
Sorry for all the vitriol. Just kind of losing hope with the corners here; how many times must we see Owens do a beautiful job of keeping up with an opposing wideout only for him to be unaware of where the ball is? And can somebody get Grimes some high heels or something? Dude's tiny!
I'm glad Chris Houston will be around, and I'm also glad Abe will be released upon the unsuspecting Chad Pennington. Penn has great blockers in Long and the tight ends (of which frequently two are run at once, normally Anthony Fasano and David Martin), but between our line's leader, the sack-threat tackles, and Chad's general mobility issues, we're going to put on some pressure.
Nervous about how the Phins' second-line receivers, let alone Ted Ginn, match up against our CBs, though.
Atlanta Pass Offense v. Miami Pass Defense
Once again, it's going to be good to see the starter get some real burn. As in, all-60-minutes burn, hopefully. Matt Ryan was conserved in a very...conservative manner in exhibition, and I think we're all about as fed up with John Parker Wilson and D.J. Shockley (good luck to you, Dawg) as can be.
I don't see pressure on Matty Ice being the trouble here. It's not that the line is all that rock-solid, but Sam Baker is looking good, as are both guard spots. Besides, Miami's blitz, while solid, is not known as their strong point.
What I think we've got to see for the Dirty Birds to have success is consistency, and with the number of quality receivers we've got (it's at least four, though early in the preseason I would have told you more), it's a definite possibility that our air game can prevail.
We just want a lot of Roddy White here in order for the job to get done. Pepper in some over-the-tops to Brian Finneran, some sideline stuff to Micahel Jenkins, and the typical Gonzo plays, and we've got a decent number of weapons to throw at even a well-rounded defense like Miami's.
Interestingly, this might be one of the games that Tony G. is least effective, as the Dolphins have a versatile and big linebacking corps and pretty big safeties in Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson. But as I said, we'll be using a diversified attack, and it will serve us well.
In terms of one-on-one matchups between WRs and CBs, Will Allen is excellent, but does not have the strength to counter White's hops and hands. Word to rook Sean Smith for nabbing a starting spot over the talented Jason Allen and Vontae Davis, but dude, you're a bit young to totally shut down a crafty vet like Jenkins or Finn.
Prediction: Falcons 35, Miami 27
It'll have to be a high-scoring affair. Neither team is awful on defense, but neither team is going to focus on that here. Both want to shock and awe their opponent with either the Wildcat (Phins) or their dominant receivers (Falcs).
Special teams edge has to go to the ATL. Even though Weems got limited punt return chances in the preseason, I know he can be kickass in this regard (as good as Harry Douglas? Might just be!), and the Dolphins have struggled to defend this well.
One last nod to Miami before I go: I am glad this is in the Dome. We suffered there to close exhibition, but we do traditionally, ahem, defend it rather well.