Roundtable: Falcons vs. Buccaneers

It sounds like Justin Hardy is set to make his NFL debut on Sunday. If the team does activate the rookie wideout, what do you hope he can accomplish versus Tampa?

Andrew Hirsh: I think it's fair to expect him to make a few catches, maybe a first down or two, but it's important to keep expectations reasonable. Hardy hasn't participated in an actual game since preseason, and it would be unfair to expect him to be at his best from the get-go. As long as he shows a solid understanding of the playbook, displays reliable hands and looks like he belongs, his first pro contest will go down as a success.
Jay Adams: You've just gotta get that first catch under your belt. There must be so many nerves when you debut in the NFL so getting that first catch to help settle him down will be a good start. The great news here is that the Falcons don't need him to do a ton. Julio Jones and Roddy White are healthy. Hardy would just need to be available for the looks usually meant for Leonard Hankerson and possibly Nick Williams, which he's more than capable of.
Kelsey Conway: Just to catch whatever is thrown his way and not try to do too much.  As a rookie, confidence is everything. If Hardy catches everything, blocks well and contributes in some way to this offense in his first game, he will be able to gain confidence that will help him as he continues to grow in his NFL career.

Jameis Winston has played well in the past few weeks and looks like the real deal. What's the key to slowing him down?

AH: Winston is a guy who can beat you with his arm and his legs, so it's important to make sure he isn't able to run loose. If the Falcons keep him in the pocket and force him to play a one-dimensional game, it'll go a long way to making sure the Bucs' offense doesn't have a big day.
JA: When you get to him, you've got to bring him down. He's slippery and he can make you pay for not using proper technique in the same way Cam Newton can. Wrap him up, bring him down and keep him from doing too much damage with his feet.
KC: Stopping him early. The Falcons' defensive line needs to get in the rookies head early on. Winston has incredible arm strength, and if he is given time, he has shown that he is capable of being very accurate. He feeds off of momentum, so the Falcons need to prevent that from the get-go.

Roddy White said the offense is in a bit of a funk. How does Kyle Shanahan's unit get back to its old ways at the Georgia Dome?

AH: The talent is there at every position, so right now, it's about limiting self-inflicted wounds. Cutting down on turnovers would have a tremendous effect; making sure penalties are at a minimum would be huge, as well. As long as Matt Ryan and Co. avoid an excess of mental mistakes, the offense will be just fine.
JA: There's no doubt that Shanahan's offense has plenty of potential with these weapons. We saw that during the first few games of the season. Eliminating penalties will go a long way toward being more efficient there. Obviously, stopping turnovers helps, too, but consistently getting into long yardage situations due to flags is always going to slow an offense down.
KC: Scoring often and early. The games that Shanahan's offense has put up big numbers in first half, the game has a completely different type of feel. The Falcons' offense is loaded with talent and the guys have the right mindset in the locker room,  it's now about putting it all together, early in the game.

Over/under: 500 combined passing yards.

AH: Under. I think Ryan will fare well, but I also believe the Falcons will be able to contain Winston.
JA: Under. These are two great rushing teams and I think they'll be using their respective running games in a chess match of sorts.
KC: Slightly under. I think Matt Ryan will put up his usual 300 passing yards, and I think Jameis will fall short of that, leaving it the final number to be a little below 500.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content