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Five Things We Learned: Sept. 11

Posted Sep 11, 2013

AtlantaFalcons.com's Daniel Cox shares five observations from his day spent with the Falcons as they spoke to the media and began to prepare for their Week 2 home opener against the St. Louis Rams.

1. A Georgia Dome Impression: Steven Jackson showed the added dimension he can give the Falcons this year in last week's contest when he gained 122 all-purpose yards and that was the true first impression he gave the Falcons. Of course during the preseason, he played inside the Georgia Dome and gave soe glimpses of what was to come as well. Even though it's not a true first impression, he's still looking forward to the home opener this week against the St. Louis Rams. He sees it as a first impression for the home fans and he takes that seriously. After nine seasons in St. Louis, he came to the Falcons during this year's offseason and onsiders the move a chance to renew his career at the age of 30 and come Sunday he wants to show the home fans what a seasoned NFL running back looks like: “It’s not often at 30 you get to restart and reintroduce yourself to a crowd or a certain region. That’s exciting for me. I get to actually go out there, put my resume out there and do it again.”

2. Win the One-On-Ones: With a variety of personnel situations during the preseason, Harry Douglas got a lot of extra looks and made the most of them. Entering his sixth season, he's been a reliable target for the Falcons in his entire career, but he's never been the main playmaker on offense with players like Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez around. The extra looks Douglas' way continued into last week's regular season opener and he once again made the most of them, catching four passes for 93 yards and could have had more before a 17-yard gain was wiped out by a penalty in the fourth quarter. Douglas said on Wednesday he knows he will usually be matched up one-on-one and those are battles he has to be able to win. Douglas' QB,, Matt Ryan, said he was pleased with what Douglas contributed in last week's loss and thinks that's a good sign for him moving forward: “I thought he stepped up and played extremely well and made some big plays for us, especially down the stretch, he made a couple of big plays for us. So I’m excited about that, but that’s something we’ve all come to expect. He probably doesn’t get the same attention as the other guys, but we know in this locker room what he’s capable of doing. We see it all the time. For him to go out there (and do that), I was happy for him.”

PHOTOS: See Images From Wednesday's Practice

3. Anticipating Similar TE Matchup: Last week around the NFL it seemed as if every team's tight end had a huge day. The Falcons held their opponent's tight end, Jimmy Graham, to four catches for 45 yards and one touchdown and it wasn't a ton of damage from one of the league's best at the position, so that's a positive heading into this week for the Falcons defense. They anticipate a similar matchup at tight end in St. Louis' Jared Cook, an offseason addition from the Tennessee Titans. Safety Thomas DeCoud said the main thing in defending Cook in this offense is knowing he's Rams' QB Sam Bradford's safety outlet and a pass could go to him at any time. Cook made the most of his catches last week, gaining 141 yards on seven grabs for two touchdowns. Cook did have a fumble in the game however, and it's not the first time the Falcons will have faced him. In 2011 with the Titans, the Falcons kept him in check with just 51 yards on five catches. William Moore said facing Graham last week gave them a primer for Cook: “A lot of similarities between him and Jimmy. They’re the same type of guys — big, physical, fast. You’ve got to go in with that mindset. I think we got a good preparation out of Graham last week. Not to say we held him in check, he got his yards, but we did a great job against him as far as the game plan that we had against him. It’s the same thing with Jared. He’s a great tight end. “

4. Deceptively Mobile QB: The last time the Falcons saw Rams QB Sam Bradford, it was 2009, his rookie year, and the Falcons won soundly, 34-17. Bradford completed 64 percent of his passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He's improved since then and last week he completed 71 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception. While Bradford is considered around the league as a fit in the pocket-passer mold, he is more mobile that most realize. Last season he rushed for 124 yards and one touchdown. He can extend plays with his feet and throwing on the run makes him very dangerous, according to Moore: “He can run. As far as getting out of the pocket, he’s a threat. When he’s sitting in the pocket, we want to get some pressure on him. At the same time, now he uses his legs a lot and he throws on the run pretty good.”

5. Physical Corner Matchup: Much of the Rams' success on defense comes from their fierce pass rush, but they have a tandem of cornerbacks that come at receivers with a similar mentality as their defensive linemen. In Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, the Rams have two defenders on the outside that can hold down their coverage. What Finnegan lacks in size, he more than makes up for it with aggression and he's been widely regarded as one of the toughest players in the league for much of his career. What Jenkins lacks in experience he makes up for it with pure talent (four interceptions and 13 pass breakups as a rookie last year). Ryan and the Falcons faced Finnegan in 2011, but the corner didn't do much damage, totaling just four tackles and no pass disruptions. Ryan expects Finnegan to do a little bit of everything on Sunday: "We know the challenges that he presents. He’s very good at blitzing in their sub-package when he moves inside to the nickel. He’s got a good feel for getting off blocks when he does that as well. We’ve got to understand and identify where he’s at. When he plays on the outside he’s a savvy veteran. He’s a guy that’s seen every possible route combination that can get thrown at him and he’s got a good understanding of how to defend it.”


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