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Questions about the Saints, Julio Jones, Steve Sarkisian, Eric Reid, and a uniform update

SFTB_Sept21_uni

Welcome to Straight from the ’Beek! We are two days away from the big early season showdown between the Saints and the Falcons – and you’ve got lots of questions. So, let’s get right to them. Just remember, all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

Here we go.

Frank from Duluth, GA
Hey, Beek. I know this is only the third game of the season and that there are 13 more games and all that, but should we be concerned if the Falcons lose and start off 1-2 with the Bengals, Steelers and Bucs coming up? Those won’t be easy games. Look forward to your answer and thanks for doing what you do for Falcons fans.

Matt: Hi, Frank! C’mon, man – think positive! But to answer to your question, I think if that were to happen – a loss on Sunday to a division foe – you should be disappointed, but not concerned. I’ve said since the schedule was announced that we’d learn a lot about these 2018 Falcons in the first six games because it’s a brutal stretch of games against teams that won a ton of games last year. The Eagles and Steelers went 13-3 and the Saints and Panthers each went 11-5. The two other teams on that slate – the Buccaneers and Bengals – are playing some very good football right now. But remember this: it’s now how you start, but how you finish. That said, you’d like to win those division games at home and four of those six games are at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A Falcons win on Sunday would put them at 2-1 and 2-0 in the NFC South – and that’s a very nice start to the season.

Ken from Atlanta, GA
Hey, Beek. With all the talk about the uniforms, I was wondering if the Falcons plan to wear any alternative uniforms in 2018. Do you have anything on that?

Matt: I’m so glad you asked that, Ken. Yes, I do. The Falcons will wear their popular black jerseys on the following home dates this season:

  • Week 4, Sept. 30 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals
  • Week 7, Oct. 22 vs. the New York Giants
  • Week 11, Nov. 18 vs. the Dallas Cowboys

The Falcons will wear their traditional red jerseys against the Saints on Sunday as well as against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 14, the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 2 and the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 16. The team will wear its white jerseys for all road games.

Matt from Covington, GA
Hi Matt. Thanks for responding in the past. I'll keep it short and sweet. I have noticed lately Robert Alford seems to be getting all the attention over Desmond Trufant as our No. 1 corner. Is this my imagination or is there something to this? Your thoughts please.

Matt: My initial response to that is, does it really matter? I’m not sure where all of the attention you mentioned is coming from. Kelsey Conway wrote a short story on Alford for AtlantaFalcons.com this week, and the Falcons corner talked about how lining up against Julio Jones and the other receivers on this team makes him feel prepared to take on anyone because they’re so good. That said, Alford has played well recently and is coming off a solid 2017 season. In fact, from 2014 to 2017, his tackle totals have increased every single year – including back-to-back 50-plus tackles the last two seasons (he posted a career-best 58 in2017). He doesn’t have a ton of interceptions, though, with just 10 for his career. But as far as being seen as the No. 1 corner over Desmond Trufant goes, that’s not something I’ve heard a lot about, to be honest.

Eugene from Charleston, SC
Beek, I read that Julio Jones hasn’t practiced all week. How many more injuries can this team suffer? Seems like a lot in two games. If Julio doesn’t play does it hurt the Falcons’ chances? This has me worried.

Matt: Wow, there are lots of concerned and worried Falcons this morning. I totally understand where you are coming from though, Eugene. Yes, the Falcons have suffered a lot of injuries through two games. The names on the list are some big ones, too – Keanu Neal, Andy Levitre, Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman. Freeman, at least, is now considered day to day. Julio Jones is nursing some sort of issue with his calf muscle. I’m not a doctor but this could easily be a strain or a pull. If that’s the case, some rest and therapy could have Jones back in action sooner than you think. Let’s wait and see before sounding the alarms. If he cannot go for some reason, that would be significant. He’s the best receiver in the league. Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall would then have to shoulder the load – and that group is more than capable of getting it done, in my opinion. Again, let’s wait and see. I’d be surprised if Jones doesn’t play.

Mark from Macon, GA
Hi, Beek. Just curious as to what you think about Ito Smith. He looked good against the Panthers.

Matt: Hey, Mark. I really liked what I saw from Ito Smith. Yes, he did look good. The rookie had nine carries for 46 yards, including a long run of 19 yards. Smith also had a reception for nine yards, too. That’s nice production from your third-string running back – and very encouraging moving forward. I thought he had a nice burst on a few of those runs, too. If Devonta Freeman misses more time, I expect Smith to receive a similar workload and opportunities.

Adian from Toccoa, GA
Why won’t Eric Reid get a job offer from the Falcons? We want a stellar safety on the defensive squad, don’t we?

Matt: Hey there, Adian. To be honest, I think the Falcons want to see more of what they have in Damontae Kazee and Jordan Richards. Based on what we’ve seen from Kazee, there’s a lot to like – he’s proven to be a playmaker back there during the preseason and in Week 1 against Philadelphia. He obviously didn’t play a whole lot against Carolina since he was ejected following a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cam Newton. Falcons coach Dan Quinn gushed over Kazee during training camp and in the preseason, saying he was one of those players who really made an improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Richards is a player the Falcons traded for prior to the season starting and he’s still learning some things – but Quinn said he’s been impressed with him. Regarding Eric Reid, I don’t have an answer for you on that one. His name hasn’t come up a lot around here, that I know. There are always a lot of considerations when you’re talking about veteran free agents – the biggest three being salary, health and culture fit. If one of those doesn’t fit, then that could be a reason why. Thanks for the question!

John from Atlanta, GA
Beek, why are so many people on Duke Riley’s case? I think he’s stepped up and is doing a fine job in his second season. He’s a young player and Falcons need to realize that. Give him time. What do you think, Beek? Thanks for answering my question in advance.

Matt: Hey, John. I think people sometimes forget that Duke Riley missed time last season – his rookie season – with an injury. That set him back in terms of growth and game experience. In terms of games played, you could make the argument that he’s still a rookie. But all that said, Riley seems to be getting more and more comfortable out there and it’s showing in terms of production. Against the Panthers, Riley had nine tackles. Only De’Vondre Campbell had as many. Now Riley just needs to continue to get better – with his reads and his angles – and do it on a consistent basis. He certainly has the speed, and you can’t coach that. Falcons coach Dam Quinn always talks about players who make the jump from Year 1 to Year 2 – and he specifically mentioned Riley as one who improved during the offseason, saying he was a completely different player. I think Riley will be fine and he just needs to stay on the field (knock on wood).

Johnny from Athens, GA
Yo, Beek. It’s amazing how many less anti-Sark comments and questions have appeared here in Straight from the ’Beek this week! Where are all the haters? It’s amazing how people react after one friggin game sometimes. Thanks for standing in there and sticking to the facts, even though some of these knee-jerkers call you a homer, Beek. We get it, man. Rise up!

Matt: Ha! Well, I usually get called a homer when I disagree or simply point out a fact (or stat) that puts a player or a coach someone is criticizing in a positive light. Trust me, I’m no homer. I point out both the good and the bad all the time. But to your point about Steve Sarkisian. If you read this space throughout the 2017 season, there was tons and tons questions and answers about the offense – and what was different (compared to 2016). There was never any sugarcoating. That said, the offense struggled at times against the Eagles – especially in the red zone, on third down and in short yardage. Matt Ryan didn’t have his best game and the amount of penalties were ridiculous. But what people didn’t want to hear (or read) was that it had a lot to do with the execution – the Eagles simply beat the Falcons to the point of attack on many of those key plays. Regardless, it’s one game. And after Sunday’s win over the Panthers – one in which the offense looked terrific – yes, the complaints died down. And when you check back here on Monday morning, many of the questions will reflect what happened against the Saints. That’s just how it goes – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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