The Atlanta Falcons made some significant changes to their starting defense this offseason. According to the Falcons’ depth chart heading into Week 1, there are four new faces – over one-third of the starting lineup – on Atlanta's defense.
Those defenders don't face an easy task to kick off the season. Through the first nine games of the 2019 season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was playing like a legitimate MVP candidate. He has a propensity for reaching a new level while under pressure, and that was especially true during Seattle's 7-2 start last year.
Pro Football Focus notes that Wilson was under pressure on 41.6 percent of his dropbacks during that stretch, but he had a staggering 112.1 passer rating on those snaps, which was 12.3 points higher than the average passer rating among quarterbacks when they faced no pressure in 2019.
On top of that, Wilson will be surrounded by star receiver Tyler Lockett, who had six catches for 100 yards the last time these two teams met and finished the 2019 season with 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns. As a rookie, D.K. Metcalf showed off his talent against Atlanta, catching two touchdown passes. He's only one year improved and should be more in sync with his quarterback.
Running back Chris Carson was also a star in the Seahawks' 27-20 win against Atlanta last season, carrying the ball 20 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons defense looked like a different unit in the second half of that game, holding Seattle to just three point after halftime, but they will need to do it for four quarters on Sunday.
That all starts with containing Wilson, who is the driving force for that offense. As the Falcons want to increase pressure against opposing quarterbacks in 2020, they kick off the season against one of the very best in the league when under pressure. To read more about that particular matchup, check out this week’s After Further Review.
The evolution of Deion Jones
One of the primary people responsible for taking on Russell Wilson is former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones. Jones has been named a team captain for the first time in his career, and he has plenty of experience playing the Seahawks. He didn't have a huge impact on last year's game, finishing with just four tackles, but Jones will look to change that as he continues to evolve, which Kelsey Conway wrote about for AtlantaFalcons.com.
"Jones knows in order for the Falcons' defense to be the unit it wants and needs to be, his performance each week will be significant," Conway writes. "The Falcons hope Jones' game-winning interception returned for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season to close out the year gives him momentum heading into what is a critical season."
Falcons will have rotation at left guard
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said this week that the team's left guard competition would continue on into the regular season. Rookie Matt Hennessy and veteran James Carpenter were the primary combatants during training camp for that role, and Quinn says they will rotate throughout the early part of the season.
"I think as we're moving in for the first part of the season we'll see both guys getting reps there at the spot," Quinn said. "So, that's really where it's at."
This isn't something new for the 2020 season, and to see how the Falcons have utilized rotations during the first game of the year, you can read more about that here.
Matt Ryan feeling good heading into Week 1
As he enters his 13th NFL season, Matt Ryan says he feels great. Getting off to a fast start is important for the Falcons in this contest. They fell behind against the Seahawks 24-0 before halftime in 2019 and seek to avoid a similar fate in Week 1 this year. Ryan and the offense will play a big role in whether that happens or not, but he is in good spirits heading into the season.
"I have a way I've played the game for a long time and I don't think that's changed with age," Ryan said. "I think it's only gotten better. I think I'm a better decision maker, I have more experience and I'm better situationally than I've ever been. I feel really good about where I'm at in my career. I feel like every week I give our team a chance to go out there and win and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. I feel great, I feel young and I'm as excited as ever to get this season started."
Kelsey Conway wrote more about what Ryan had to say entering the season opener, which you can read about here.
Jamal Adams looks the part with Seattle
One of the key additions for the Seahawks this offseason was All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. According to Bob Condotta, who covers the Seahawks for the Seattle Times, and John Boyle of Seahawks.com, Adams has looked every bit the part during his time in Seattle.
"Adams was great in practices that media got to see and report on, and by all accounts should make a big difference this season in giving the Seahawks an enforcer in the back end they have lacked since Kam Chancellor had to retire midway through the 2017 season," Condotta writes. "The Seahawks aren't a big blitzing team typically but will definitely try to find ways to use Adams' well-known blitzing prowess. Seattle is also excited about having Quandre Diggs at free safety from the start of the season – he was acquired in a trade last October – and feel the pairing of Adams and Diggs will give the team its best safety tandem since Chancellor and Earl Thomas."
To see what else Boyle and Condotta had to say about the team they cover, click here.
What else to know about the Seahawks
As the Falcons head into their season opener against the Seahawks, there are plenty of things to know about the opposing team. Russell Wilson is obviously the big name to know, and D.K. Metcalf appears to be the rising star, but don't forget about the new guys on the block, as Kelsey Conway writes for AtlantaFalcons.com.
"The Falcons and Seahawks are no stranger to one another," Conway writes. "These clubs have met often over last few years with very little roster turnover on both ends. This year is different, though. Seattle added veteran tight end, Greg Olsen, to its roster in free agency. Atlanta's defense is very familiar with Olsen as he spent nine years in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers. When healthy, Olsen has been one of the best tight ends in the league. Olsen's 718 catches and 8,444 receiving yards rank fifth all-time among tight ends behind only Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe."
The Falcons and Seahawks will kick off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday inside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For more information on how to watch the game, click here.
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