Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 29, 2018 at 2:10 am.


–DE Derrick Shelby was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. He is the team’s seventh player to be idled. Shelby had 10 tackles and no sacks this season.

–DB Ryan Neal was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster. Neal was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Eagles and signed with the Falcons in August after being released.

–RB Jeremy Langford, who played two seasons for the Chicago Bears, was added to the practice squad. He rushed for 737 yards for the Bears in 2014-15. The former Michigan State standout was one of the last players cut by the Dolphins this summer.

–WR Calvin Ridley caught eight passes against the Saints for 93 yards and one touchdown. Ridley now has eight receiving touchdowns, tying him with Julio Jones for the most by a rookie through 11 games. He is one shy of tying the rookie record set by Junior Miller.

–WR Julio Jones had more than 100 receiving yards for the sixth straight week. He had 11 catches for 147 yards against the Saints. It was the eighth time he’s been over 100 yards in a game this season, the second-best in franchise history.

–S Damontae Kazee intercepted a pass against the Saints and has six picks this season. That’s only two interceptions shy of the franchise record set by Ray Brown. He is the first Atlanta player with six interceptions since Thomas DeCoud in 2012.

–QB Matt Ryan still passed for 377 yards against the Saints, but was intercepted once and lost a fumble. Ryan was sacked six times, matching the season high against the Steelers. He was also the team’s rushing leader for the first time in his career.

–RB Devonta Freeman could return by the end of the season. He is back in Atlanta and head coach Dan Quinn said he would have a better assessment on the Pro Bowl tailback later in the week. It may be unlikely that the team would push him to return now that playoff hopes are all but finished.

–CB Desmond Trufant played through a bothersome thigh last week against the Saints and did not produce one of his more memorable games. Head coach Dan Quinn said, “I’m more than pleased with the way he’s responded over the last few weeks.”

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: DE Bruce Irvin has been with the team for three games and hasn’t made a huge impact. However, head coach Dan Quinn said the midseason free-agent addition is learning the system and blending in with his teammates. Irvin plays mainly in the team’s nickel package. He didn’t get many opportunities to play against Cleveland, but played quite a bit against the Cowboys and Saints.

In three games with Atlanta, Irvin has five tackles, but no sacks and no tackles for loss. In eight games with Oakland he had six tackles, three for loss, and three sacks.

Quinn said, “It’s not easy to get dropped in the middle of it, but he’s done a good job of integrating with the guys.”

Quinn likes the toughness and intensity that Irvin brings to the club. He still has plenty of “get-off,” a trait that he’s possessed since being a first-round draft pick by Seattle in 2012 out of West Virginia.

Irvin played four seasons with the Seahawks, then spent two-plus seasons with Oakland before being released on Nov. 3 after eight games. He signed a one-year deal with the Falcons on Nov. 7, rejoining Quinn, his former defensive coach in Seattle.

Irvin’s role is likely to increase as his comfort level improves and he finds his way a bit more.

GAME PLAN: The Falcons will find it difficult to run the ball against the Baltimore defense, which ranks first against the run in the NFL. Moving the ball on the ground has been a challenge the last few weeks and was impossible against the Saints a week ago.

With the run game nearly invisible, the onus falls on quarterback Matt Ryan to move the sticks. His deep group of receivers (Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, and tight end Austin Hooper) are all healthy and Ryan continues to target other players on the roster. Expect to see running back Tevin Coleman be on the receiving end, too.

The biggest question mark is the offensive line, which was ineffective in advancing the running game and protecting quarterback Matt Ryan a week ago. Head coach Dan Quinn made it a focus this week and if it doesn’t improve, the Falcons could be in for a long Sunday afternoon.

–Falcons S Damontae Kazee vs. Ravens WR Willie Snead IV. Kazee got his sixth interception of the season last week. He will likely be tested deep by Snead. Kazee will also need to supplement the rushing defense against a Ravens club that features a running quarterback and several quality running backs.

–Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs. Suggs (5.5 sacks) is one of three top-notch pass rushers on the team, joining Matthew Judon (6) and Za’Darius Smith (5.5) to make up a dangerous trio. Ryan was shell-shocked last week after getting sacked six times by the Saints, the second time that’s happened this season. Suggs and Co. are likely to be playing against a revamped offensive line.