Three-Phase Takeaways: Falcons vs. Saints

From key matchups to the return of key players, keep an eye on these storylines heading into the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints.

As preparations continue for Sunday's Week 1 matchup against the visiting New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons coordinators Dirk Koetter, Mike Nolan and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong carved out time to meet with reporters, discussing key factors for hopeful success against their NFC South rival.

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter on what stands out about the Saints defense: "Their front, how hard and consistent their front plays, the consistently-good play of their middle linebacker (Curtis Lofton) and obviously, they have the new addition of (Jairus) Byrd at free safety; we've played against him before at Buffalo and have a lot of respect for his play. It's a rivalry game against a great defense and we know that it will be a great challenge for our guys, but one that everyone is looking forward to."

Koetter on expectations for Falcons QB Matt Ryan: "Nobody has higher expectations for Matt than he puts on himself. My expectation is that he plays up to his capabilities and continues to be the excellent leader of our team that he is."

Koetter on the impact of Falcons WR Devin Hester: "I must admit, when Devin came, just because he didn't play much receiver for Chicago last year, in my own mind, we were getting a great return guy and he's far exceeded my expectations as a wide receiver — excellent ball skills, very quick in and out of his breaks, a really good route runner, for a guy that's not known as a wide receiver, so, Devin will definitely have a roll on offense."

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan on facing Saints QB Drew Brees: "Drew is a great quarterback; he's a Hall of Fame QB; he hasn't been voted in yet, but there's no question the guy is going in. He's awesome and he's a great one to compete against and if you're a competitor, that's who you want to go against and I think our players feel the same way. He's very good at recognizing the blitz; he's very good at getting rid of the ball, avoiding the sack in the pocket. The challenge is there, not only from a scheme standpoint, but more importantly from a players' standpoint and when it gets down to it, the players are the guys that want to make the plays and have to make them." 

Nolan on Falcons S Dwight Lowery and the role he might play in defending Saints TE Jimmy Graham: "The safeties, both of them, will have a role in the ballgame to address Jimmy at some point. Jimmy does a lot of routes that are not only on (Lowery's) side of the field, but he'll come across the field, quite a bit, and catch a lot of balls. So, both safeties will be involved from that standpoint; it's just the way they run their offense."

Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong on the Saints return game: "They're a solid unit. They do a very good job. They know us and we know them. They've got some good returners (RB Travaris) Cadet has done a nice job for them, (WR Brandin) Cooks is extremely fast, a 4.33 (40-yard dash) punt returner; whenever you're covering in this league, you may not know that guy, but you better treat him like he's the best that you've ever faced."

Armstrong on expectations for Falcons WR Eric Weems: "He'll do a good job for us. He brings toughness to the squad; it's important to him. He competes (and) he's a verbal leader and he's going to make it known how he feels about some things. He leads by example on the field and he's also doing a nice job off the field."

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