The Atlanta Falcons came off of their bye week ready to work. The team is preparing to face the Cardinals in the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
OLB Jones vs. LT Matthews
The Cardinals defense blitzes frequently, as Dwight Freeney!(/team/roster/dwight-freeney/006d9af6-0b1e-432d-ae43-daa3fc180945/ "Dwight Freeney") said Monday, and one of their best blitzer is Chandler Jones. The outside linebacker has successfully adjusted to Arizona after being traded by New England, notching a team-high 8.0 sacks in 2016 to go along with 44 total pressures. Jones rushes primarily from the right side, according to Pro Football Focus, which means Jake Matthews, along with Atlanta's tight ends, can expect to see a lot of the 2015 Pro Bowler.
Matthews has been nothing if not solid in pass protection this year. Per PFF, he's allowed just two sacks and six QB hits in 380 pass block snaps.
"First thing, his length (stands out)," Quinn said about Jones. "And as a pass rusher, when you have really long arms, it allows you to keep the tackle who's trying to punch you away by the use of his hands. So that jumps out to me, the use of his hands, the arm length. He just has a real knack of (knowing) when to come under. He's a very accomplished pass rusher, but it's the length that he has that makes him so unique."
Atlanta's front seven versus RB Johnson
Although Arizona's offense has sputtered of late, David Johnson has emerged as one of the league's best young running backs. In 10 games, the second-year pro out of Northern Iowa has gained 10 touchdowns and 863 rushing yards – good for first and third in the NFL, respectively.
Johnson is undoubtedly a workhorse: His 197 carries are the fifth-most in the league; no one else on Arizona's roster has more than 25 carries or 95 rushing yards. He's dangerous as a pass-catcher, too, as evident by his 510 receiving yards and two TD receptions.
Johnson is well on his way to his first Pro Bowl nomination, and with a rare blend of speed and size, proper tackling technique will be needed to bring him down and limit yards after contact.
"When you talk about the runner for this week, David Johnson, that better be the case," head coach Dan Quinn said. "He's got size of a big back but the jump cut ability of a guy who's smaller. So having the right strike zone and where to hit and getting to his legs is going to be important. … We definitely recognize the importance of that."
CB Peterson versus WR Jones
Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones have quite a history. The two have faced each other on five occasions – three times in college, twice in the NFL – and were drafted back-to-back in 2011. During their latest matchup, on Nov. 30, 2014, Jones got the best of Arizona's Pro Bowl corner, catching 10 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown.
Peterson will likely spend a lot of time covering Jones on Sunday; he'll likely get some help on that front, as well – possibly from FS D.J. Swearinger, who has excelled in pass coverage this season.
"He's one of the top corners in the league. I'm up there with the top receivers in the league, so people are going to put more attention on the matchups," Jones said. "Just like when me and Richard Sherman we went against each other. It's definitely bigger than me and (Peterson), the game is. We've got 10 other guys out there with us. It's going to be fun, though. He's a guy that comes and he's going to compete every play, and I'm going to do the same. So it should be fun."