The Falcons have a league-high nine players on the Pro Bowl roster and as practice begins this week in Hawaii AtlantaFalcons.com begins a breakdown of each player on Atlanta's roster on hand for the league's all-star game, who they're playing with and some of the interesting matchups that present themselves within the game.
Wide receivers:Atlanta's wide reciever Roddy White is joined on the NFC roster by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.
White, Johnson and Fitzgerald feature many of the same skill sets — big-play receivers who are big targets with sure hands for their quarterbacks. Jackson is the wildcard of the bunch, an electric player with tremendous speed and quickness.
Jackson may see most of his time on the field when Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is under center. The same could be true for White when Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is taking snaps.
White will also take throws from rival quarterback Drew Brees of the Saints.
White finds himself in the Pro Bowl on the heels of a season that saw him lead the NFC, by a wide margin, in receptions. He was also the division's leader in yards and was tied for third with 10 touchdowns.
Johnson shared the NFC's lead with 12 touchdowns and was fourth in division with 1,120 receiving yards, despite playing with three different quarterbacks this season.
By his own standards, Fitzgerald had a down year, but still managed the NFC's third-best receiving mark and added six touchdowns.
Jackson led the Division in yards-per-catch among receivers with eight catches or more.
All four receivers will face a stiff challenge from the AFC's cornerbacks, Nnamdi Asomugha, Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty. Safeties Brandon Meriweather, Michael Griffin and Eric Berry will help in the coverage. Oakland's Asomugha and the Jets' Revis are widely regarded as the best corners in the NFL and it will be a great test for all the receivers, especially White, who now prides himself as one of the truly elite pass catchers in the game.
Tight ends:Tight end is filled with same familiar names, although one is new to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. Dallas' Jason Witten is the conference's starter and is backed up by Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez, who is making his first appearance on the Pro Bowl in the NFC after 10 appearances on the squad in the AFC.
Witten quietly led the NFC tight ends with 94 receptions, 17 ahead of the second place finisher. He also led all tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Gonzalez had the third-best marks in the NFC in touchdowns (6) and catches for first downs (39). His placement in the Pro Bowl is a nod to his consistent play for the Falcons, often the go-to option for Ryan in the passing game. He'll surely be a comfort for quarterback Matt Ryan who makes his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Witten and Gonzalez will be covered often by traditional 3-4 outside linebackers Cameron Wake from Miami, Terrell Suggs of the Ravens and Kansas City's Tamba Hali.
Offensive tackle:Atlanta's right tackle Tyson Clabo is joined by Tampa's Donald Penn and Carolina's Jordan Gross as the protectors of the outside edges around the NFC quarterbacks. Coincidentally, all three are from the NFC South.
Both Penn and Gross are both starting left tackles so Clabo figures to see a large amount of time on the field.
All three will have their hands full because they face a mix of 4-3 and 3-4 talent. They'll try to slow the pass-rushing of Robert Mathis of the Colts and Jason Babin of the Titans, traditional 4-3 ends. They'll also try to contain Miami's Randy Starks, a 3-4 end, in the running, Starks' strong suit.
The tackles, however, won't have to contain and contend with three pass-rushing linebackers — Suggs, Wake and Hali — because Pro Bowl rules prevent the use of blitzes in defensive schemes during the game.