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Scouts Inc: Take 2

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Take 2: Falcons vs. SaintsBy Scouts, Inc. Atlanta at New Orleans Matchups QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST Coach Overall ATL ATL NO NO ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL ATL Tuesday, our scouts filed their advance advance scouting ...

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Old 10-14-2005, 10:45 AM   #1
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Scouts Inc: Take 2

Take 2: Falcons vs. SaintsBy Scouts, Inc.

Atlanta at New Orleans Matchups
QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST Coach Overall

Tuesday, our scouts filed their advance advance scouting report on this week's matchup between the Falcons and Saints. Now they're back with a second look.

The Falcons' defense is at its best when coordinator Ed Donatell is aggressive and blitzes with great frequency. It's an attacking, fast-flow defense that is more effective when it can dictate the tempo with speed and quickness. However, the Falcons are not overly physical and can be worn down by a consistent running game.
Last week, the Patriots used a lot of two-back and two-tight-end personnel sets, forcing the Atlanta defense to play physical football. The Falcons were much more reactive than proactive, and their defense did not control the pace of the game. That's why it's important that New Orleans stays committed to the run despite losing RB Deuce McAllister to a season-ending knee injury.

• Expect Keith Brooking to move from his weak-side linebacker position to the middle in place of Ed Hartwell, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Achilles' tendon surgery. The move likely will necessitate moving Demorrio Williams to the weak side from the strong side, because Ike Reese is a better fit on the strong side than he is on the weak side. This is not a physical linebacker unit, with the exception of Brooking, and it could have problems matching up with Saints backup RB Antowain Smith, who runs with good power.

• The Saints run a lead-back-based running game. Its foundation is the I-formation, and FB Mike Karney plays in almost every normal down-and-distance situation, primarily offset in the formation. With Smith and No. 3 Aaron Stecker now getting the bulk of the carries, expect the Saints to utilize even more downhill power runs with Karney leading the way. They will run fewer counters than they did when McAllister was in the lineup, because Smith is not a strong counter runner. He is much better attacking the hole than he is waiting for blocks to develop.

• For New Orleans to achieve any degree of offensive consistency, coordinator Mike Sheppard must limit QB Aaron Brooks' passing attempts. Brooks is not the kind of quarterback who can drop back 30-plus times a game and be effective. He just isn't consistent enough. The best way for the Saints to orchestrate big plays in the passing game is to take their shots on first down out of run formations and play-action.

• In normal down-and-distance situations, Falcons SS Bryan Scott will move down into the box, especially when the Saints run their base two-back sets. Stacking the line of scrimmage with Scott results in predictable single-safety cover schemes, with FS Keion Carpenter deep and the corners often playing man-to-man on the outside. So far, DC Jason Webster has proven to be somewhat of a liability in coverage. He takes too long to transition from the press position when he tries to jam receivers, and he does not have the recovery speed to compensate. With Saints WR Joe Horn likely back this week, the Falcons could put DC DeAngelo Hall on Horn, regardless of where Horn lines up. On the opening Monday night of the season, the Falcons consistently matched Hall up with Philadelphia WR Terrell Owens.

• The most critical matchup in this game could well be the Falcons' running game vs. the Saints' run defense, especially with QB Michael Vick back in the lineup. In the Falcons running game, the backs read the flow created by an agile offensive line, then attack downhill as the hole opens. RB Warrick Dunn has exceptional cutback ability, and his running style demands the defense play with great discipline. So far this season, discipline has not been a defining feature of the Saints front seven, especially their linebackers. They have not shown the consistent ability to fill properly into correct gap. In addition, Vick places an even greater demand on the back side, because of his ability to slip out the back door if the defense doesn't stay home.

• With Matt Schaub at quarterback last week, the Falcons' passing game showed a rhythm and a flow that it hasn't shown with Vick in the lineup. Schaub got the wide receivers involved with good timing and anticipation. With Vick, the Falcons lack consistency in their passing game. However, the Saints' pass defense is vulnerable, particularly at the safety position. Rookie SS Josh Bullocks has shown he needs a lot of work reading routes and understanding his responsibilities in different coverage schemes. The question is, will Vick be able to take advantage?

• Saints' MLB Courtney Watson has been replaced by veteran Ronald McKinnon at times. McKinnon has a better understanding of how to fit into the run defense and plays with more gap discipline than Watson. It is evident watching tape that the Saints are more effective defending the run on the snaps in which McKinnon plays at middle linebacker. The second issue with Watson is his play against the pass. Along with Colby Bockwoldt, Watson plays in the nickel package. He struggles with run-pass recognition and doesn't have a good understanding of route-progressions.

• New Orleans' defensive line is versatile, as it plays four defensive ends -- Darren Howard, Charles Grant, Will Smith and Tony Bryant -- in situations with pass-heavy tendencies. They are all interchangeable in the defensive front, capable of lining up at both DE and DT. The problem for the Saints is they may not be able to get this personnel package on the field very much. The Falcons, unlike almost every other team in the NFL, rarely line up with three receivers.

• The most disruptive defensive tackle we have seen on tape this season has been Falcons DT Rod Coleman. What separates Coleman is his outstanding pass rush ability. He has great lateral quickness and uses his hands extremely well. He shows rare closing speed, as well, and nothing is more disruptive than quick pressure up the middle. That doesn't bode well for the Saints, because Brooks does not react well to inside pressure. Brooks does not have great feet when it comes to movement within the pocket, and he has a tendency to lose his mechanics when there is pressure in his face.

Special Teams
Allen Rossum is an explosive return man with a second gear in the open field, and he is capable of helping Atlanta win the battle of field position. New Orleans' kickoff cover unit has been among the best in the league, so Rossum has a better opportunity to make an impact returning punts.

However, it's important to note that Rossum will play a bigger role on defense because of Cash's injury. He may not be as fresh or explosive in the return game as a result. In fact, Hall could return some punts if Rossum struggles. Don't expect many long kick returns from the Saints working against Atlanta's cover teams, which have both done a good job of preventing the big play.

The Falcons' special teams showed their versatility when they asked P Michael Koenen to attempt a 58-yard field goal, which he connected on, last week. Koenen isn't as accurate as Todd Peterson, but he has a stronger leg and Atlanta should continue to use him on long-range field goal attempts.

• New Orleans ROT Jammal Brown vs. Atlanta LDE Patrick Kerney
• Atlanta RB Warrick Dunn vs. New Orleans MLB Courtney Watson
• Atlanta ROT Todd Weiner vs. New Orleans LDE Charles Grant
• New Orleans WR Az-Zahir Hakim vs. Atlanta Nickel back Allen Rossum
• Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler vs. New Orleans SS Josh Bullocks

Scouts' Edge
New Orleans will try to keep this game close with a strong commitment to the running game and some big plays in the passing game, but it won't be enough to overcome the loss of McAllister.

Atlanta's front seven will put Brooks in more third-and-long situations with Smith carrying the ball, and the pass rush will be very aggressive on downs with pass-heavy tendencies. That pressure combined with the fact he has to shoulder more of the load with McAllister on the sidelines will result in Brooks making a few costly mistakes that turn into stalled drives or turnovers.

The Falcons offense will control the tempo and keep the Saints off balance with a strong and versatile running game. When Vick does drop back to pass, he will either exploit the middle of the New Orleans' pass defense with his arm strength or use his quickness to make some big plays with his feet. Look for Atlanta to get the big NFC South win.

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