Every week, Philly Football Talk will check in with a member of the opposing team’s media for a little question and answer session. Today we speak with David Walker, Editor of The Falcoholic and co-host of the Falcoholic Podcast.
— Jon Marks: The Falcons offense has been sensational this season, scoring almost as many points though nine games as they scored in all of 2015. Why is the offense so good this season…what’s been the difference from last year?
David Walker: It’s a combination of things. First, signing Alex Mack has stabilized the offensive line and provided veteran leadership (and strong pre-snap pass blocking reads) to the offense. Second, the depth of talent is better with the additions like Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper and the emergence of Tevin Coleman. Finally, Matt Ryan is far more comfortable in this offense, and Kyle Shanahan has done more to keep him in the pocket this year.
— JM: So the offense is great and score a lot points, but their defense gives up a lot of points too. Is the defense good enough to win games against the elite NFC teams come playoff time? What are the defense’s strengths and weaknesses?
DW: This is a very young defense that has lots of great young talent, but is struggling to put it all together. The defensive line has come on strong lately, with Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn being particularly disruptive and making the Falcons pass rush respectable. Our rookie linebackers – Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell – are quick-twitch athletes who are prone to lapses in coverage, though this is getting better. Our secondary is lead by top-notch corner Desmond Trufant, who may miss the game in Philly and Robert Alford – who has all the physical skills but is prone to drawing interference calls. Our safeties are Ricardo Allen (who is ok, but nothing special) and rookie Keanu Neal, who is better than advertised in coverage and is a punishing hitter in the open field. The defense is definitely still a weakness, but it’s a unit that is getting better. If the Falcons make an early exit from the playoffs, though, it will almost certainly be because of this young and inexperienced defense.
— JM: Thoughts on Falcons coach Dan Quinn? The team started the 2015 season at 6-1 before losing 6 straight games and finishing 8-8. Is he the long-term solution in Atlanta? Are there some people who think offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should be the guy?
DW: Quinn has shown himself to be an effective coach, making adjustments when necessary and being a very effective leader. Most fans have no concerns with him at HC. He has instilled a clear vision for the team that he is executing on. At this point, the bigger concern with Kyle Shanahan is whether he will be here next year, since many believe he is now a leading candidate for a head coaching opportunity in 2017 (though I think he’ll be in Atlanta one more season personally).
— JM: If you were the Eagles defense, how would you approach the Falcons and their offense? How do you beat Matt Ryan?
DW: Ryan has shown that if you give him time in the pocket, he will find the open guy. Against a very good Denver defense, he was able to repeatedly find the open receiver, even when Julio was shut down for most of the game. The Seahawks first half against the Falcons was the blue print: you have to collapse the pocket, and do it consistently. Seattle blitzed repeatedly in the first half with great success. However, once they moved away from that, the Falcons were able to rattle off 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. The best bet is to put Ryan on the turf repeatedly.
— JM: The Falcons are leaving the Georgia Dome after this season for their new retractable roof stadium right next door. The stadium was built in 1992 and it’s already getting demolished? That’s not even 25 years. What gives?
DW: A few reasons, really. First, Arthur Blank had no ownership in the GA Dome, whereas he’ll have a significant amount of ownership in the new stadium. This automatically increases the value of the team dramatically. Second, the design of the GA Dome ensured that there would be no future Super Bowls coming our way. This new stadium is state-of-the-art and was a big factor in landing the 2019 Super Bowl.
— JM: Very interested to hear your comments on Michael Vick. An exciting player in Atlanta before the dog fighting stuff, came to Philly and resurrected his career. Did you root for him in Philly? How does the Falcons fan base feel about him today?
DW: You’ll still find many fans that wish that the Falcons would bring Vick back (yes, even now). Given the controversial way in which he left, his return was never going to happen. However, I loved Vick as a player and his years in Atlanta were some of the most exciting for this franchise. He was wildly inconsistent, but could also be utterly dominant. As a dog-lover, his crimes are reprehensible, but I was happy to see him find redemption.
— JM: Your honest opinion of Eagles Fans: Savages or misunderstood
DW: Some of you guys scare me – haha. I think Philly fans are definitely passionate, though the stories of the violence towards other fans in Philadelphia are the stuff of legend. I’m not sure how true they all are, but if the goal was to scare opposing fans away from your home field: mission accomplished.
— JM: What are your thoughts on Carson Wentz?
DW:Despite the recent slide, I think this guy is the real deal. He seems very composed and calm in the pocket and already looks like an accurate passer. If the Eagles build around him – particularly with more WR talent – he should be a Pro-Bowl caliber player in no-time. With all the talk of Dak and Ezekiel in Dallas, the Eagles have a sleeper candidate for offensive rookie of the year in Wentz.
— JM: Who was the Eagles player that you were a fan of and always wanted on your team
DW: This one is easy. Even though he finished his career in Green Bay, I was a huge fan of Reggie White. He is still – in my mind – the greatest pass rusher to have ever played.
— JM: Finally, what do think of Sunday’s game? Confident in a Falcons win?
DW: Road wins are always hard, and I think the Eagles will be hungry for another win. I think the Falcons will do their best to neutralize Graham and Cox and give Ryan time to distribute the ball. I think it will be a close game, but I do think the Falcons will eek out the win.