Each week during the 2012 season, we're hitting up some of the most knowledgeable people on the Internet when it comes to the Eagles' opponent that particular Sunday. This week we chat with Chris Dimino, a sports talk radio host and Falcons analyst for 790 The Zone in Atlanta.
Kulp: Quarterback Matt Ryan is off to the best start of his five-year career. The Exton, PA native is fourth in touchdown passes (14) and passer rating (98.8), and he's on pace to throw for over 4,600 yards. With the Falcons off to a 6-0 start, would you say Matty Ice is the front-runner to win league MVP honors?
Chris Dimino: Ah... the always coveted seven week MVP Award. His numbers say he's as good a choice as anyone. I think more importantly is what an MVP is/has. His team believes something good is going to happen RIGHT NOW. Matt has walked onto the field a few times where the non-MVP candidate wouldn't have gotten the first downs or found a way to be a reason the Falcons won a game late. He has that right now. Never have seen a season-long MVP who didn't have "it." That's what different about him right now.
The Falcons are ranked 29th in rushing offense and 27th in yards per attempt. Michael Turner doesn't look like an explosive runner anymore, and Jacquizz Rodgers isn't giving him much of a breather. Is Turner's decline and the lack of quality depth behind him the problem, and does he even still fit in Atlanta's pass-happy offense?
Those numbers are horrifyingly bad. They read like a total disclaimer to being a championship team. Good thing it's 2012. One-dimensional isn't a death knell these days. What it still is though is a recipe to have teams play you differently and attempt to take away your strength. I don't care about total yards rushing anymore -- from Turner, Rodgers, anyone. I DO care about an inability to get the one- or two- or three-yard first down on the ground. If I can play GM for a second... I'm on my second year of asking St. Louis what they want for Steven Jackson.
Asante Samuel was traded to the Falcons more or less because the Eagles wanted flexibility from their corners, and he only likes to play off-man coverage on the left side. It was also rumored the front office felt he was in decline. How has Samuel performed so far in Atlanta, and has there been any difficulty fitting him into a scheme?
Assante "paid" for himself (seventh-round pick) with his pick-six game-changer a couple of weeks ago. Ball hawking risk/reward guy -- I'll take a couple of them. He's the biggest talker this team has seen in this regime. In practice he doesn't shut up. But he's NOT Deangelo Hall who talked because he needed it to be about him. Samuel legitimately talks to get his whole unit up for the moment. And his acquisition lessened the blow of losing Brent Grimes and has made Dunta Robinson a better player because he has gotten to play the more inside attacking DB role.
Atlanta's defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL largely due to their claiming ownership of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Falcons are 28th in yards allowed, and 31st at 5.2 yards per attempt. However, it looks like they should get interior lineman Corey Peters back from a stress fracture this week. How far will his return go toward solving their problems?
Big-bodied, hard-working guys on the interior of a defensive line that has those rushing numbers should be picked up and driven to practice. He'll help as long as he's ready to play and stay on the field. Going one man deeper in your rotation is big. They have to fix the run D problem. Mike Nolan's defense is more react than read and react. More responsibility for DE's, LB's, and DB's. The interior guys need to body up to let those guys make plays closer to line of scrimmage.