Fans are right to be excited. Against the Ravens last week the 1st team offense was gashing a talented Baltimore defense, and the 1st team defense gave varied looks, appearing to be a dynamic unit who can adapt to different offensive schemes. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the depth, who looked inexperienced, and lost; a stark contrast to what we saw early in the game.
This week the Falcons see another good team, but one who approaches the game quite differently. Today we're looking at what makes the Falcons-Bengals match-up tick, and three things to look for.
1. A test for the secondary
Cincinnati represents a very different challenge than their fellow AFC North brethren. Largly in part to their young, but effective receiving corps led by A.J. Green, and now supported by 5th round pick Marvin Jones, who had an excellent (albiet limited) debut against the Jets where he caught two passes for 48 yards.
Unlike the Ravens who lean on their backfield, the Bengals will give sophomore Andy Dalton more reps in the Georgia Dome, and we should see a largely passing attack worked through their variety of weapons. Atlanta are more than up to the task, countering with Asante Samuel, Brent Grimes, and Dunta Robinson– but it will still be interesting to watch.
2. Preparing for the pass rush
Cincinnati's defense was shockingly effective in 2011. They had talent, but nobody predicted they'd be quite so good as a pass rushing team. Last week the Bengals got to the New York QBson five occasions, with numerous players getting sacks. Marvin Lewis has always prided himself on an attacking scheme (even if it hasn't always been effective), and we should see this on display Thursday.
One of the best (read: relieving) aspects to the Falcons' win last week was that the offensive line didn't crumble under the pressure of a stout Ravens defense. Even a unit missing Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngatais a talented one, and the depth offensive line stepped up. This will be another great test for Atlanta.
3. More Julio Jones
Alright, so the third one may be a little self-serving, but I just want to see more Julio Jones! The reports of his improvement, the faith the coaching staff was showing, the flashes we saw in training camp... they were all true. It's hard not to be excited by a big-bodied, athletic receiver, with the chippiness of a sub-6ft receiver.
It should be interesting to see the Bengal's elected coverage option, and whether they commit #1 corner Leon Hall to cover Jones. We should see at least a few snaps where Jones is covered by hall, and should he succeed in these occasions then the Falcons are really onto something.