Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 06, 2018 at 1:12 am.


–LS Josh Harris was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury that has been bothering him for several weeks. Harris has spent seven seasons with the Falcons as a reliable snapper for K Matt Bryant and P Matt Bosher.

–LS Jon Condo was signed to replace Josh Harris as the long snapper. Condo (6-3, 240) is in his 12th season out of Maryland. He has been with Oakland for the last 11 seasons but has not played this year.

–DT Justin Zimmer was signed from the practice squad. The rookie from Ferris State almost made the club in training camp. He played one game, but did not have any tackles against the Saints on Sept. 23.

–S Keith Tandy was released by the club on Tuesday. The veteran from West Virginia had played in six games and had two assisted tackles.

–S Sharrod Neasman left the Baltimore game with neck and shoulder injuries. His status for Sunday is not known.

–WR Julio Jones is dealing with a hand injury. His status is not known.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: S Damontae Kazee. One of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season has been the emergence of Kazee. The second-year player from San Diego State has grown into one of the team’s most productive players since the early season loss of safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. In 12 games, Kazee has 60 tackles, one for loss, and leads the team with six interceptions. He also had two interceptions in the preseason.

“I would say No. 1 he has definitely improved from a communication side,” head coach Dan Quinn said. “That part of his game is now so much further along than he had. That is the good and bad byproduct of being thrust in is to say, ‘Now, it’s on you to make the calls, make the alerts,’ so that part for sure has been better.”

Quinn said he was aware of Kazee’s competitive and fearless nature, but didn’t expect him to lead the team in interceptions. He has embellished his reputation as a ballhawk.

“We did know that he was one tough competitive guy and he wouldn’t back off of it,” Quinn said. “That part we knew we needed to add just somehow, some way to keep that part going. We’d find a space for him once we got him in the building.”

Kazee was originally seen as a cornerback, but was forced to make the switch to safety after the team’s injuries.

“He has not disappointed in that way at all,” Quinn said. “He had not a lot of background at safety, but playing down the line of scrimmage he was that way at corner, and to keep that competitive style about him, we could train him at the safety spot.”

GAME PLAN: The Falcons will attempt to alleviate the pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan by establishing the running game against the Packers. That hasn’t worked the last four weeks and the less the team can run the ball, the more abuse Ryan takes. Ryan will need to return to form this week. He threw for a season-low 131 yards last week against the Ravens. He had thrown for 300 or more yards seven times and had 419 yards against the Bengals.

The Falcons must find a way to field a more productive offensive line. They started two new guards last week – Ryan Schraeder and veteran Zane Beadles – and may give rookie Ty Sambrailo more opportunities. The team has been struggling there since season-ending injuries to Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco.

–Falcons CB Robert Alford vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The Atlanta secondary will have to find a way to slow Rodgers, who has thrown for 3,504 yards and 21 TDs and been intercepted only one time. In six career games against Atlanta (two wins), Rodgers has thrown for 1,969 yards and 15 touchdowns for a 112.2 rating. If Alford and the rest of the secondary can do their job, it will open the way for the pressure to get to Rodgers, whom Atlanta has sacked 16 times.

–Falcons MLB Deion Jones vs. Packers TE Jimmy Graham. Although Graham has slowed down some, he’s always a problem for the Falcons. Graham has 44 catches for 36 yards and two touchdowns. Graham has faced te Falcons 12 times (most of them when he played for the Saints) and has 62 catches for 782 yards and nine touchdowns. Jones will need to be aware of Graham as he goes across the middle in those sticky third-down situations.