If the Atlanta Falcons are going to emerge from the brutal NFC South with a playoff berth, they will need to answer these five burning questions.
Dan Quinn piloted the Falcons to a NFC title in 2016 and he wants to get Atlanta at least that far in 2018. If he’s going to experience that level of success, he has to answer a fair amount of questions on both sides of the ball.
Fortunately for Falcons fans, the team is set at the game’s most crucial position. Barring injury, Matt Ryan is going to lead the offense onto the field every week. He isn’t the NFL’s greatest athlete, but his strong, accurate arm allows him to be one of the most effective quarterbacks in the game.
Quinn has a lot more work to do with the defense. That was his specialty as a coordinator in Seattle, but he doesn’t have the same kind of talent with the Falcons. It’s not quite smoke and mirrors, but this group doesn’t resemble the Legion of Boom in any way, shape or form.
The first question the Falcons need to answer is whether or not their defensive tackle play will be up to par.
5. Can Jack Crawford plug the middle?
Dontari Poe didn’t put up huge stats for this defense last year, but his presence on the field made everyone else’s life easier. Unfortunately, he took his talents to Carolina in the offseason. That leaves Crawford as the likely starter on the inside next to Grady Jarrett.
A bicep injury limited the former Cowboy to just four games in 2017, but he’ll need to be a fixture in the defensive rotation this season. Third round pick Deadrin Senat will also be a factor, but Crawford is going to get the first shot to fill Poe’s shoes.
His biggest issue is that he isn’t the massive human that Poe is. He’s “only” 6-foot-5, 288 pounds. That’s massive in most professions, but not for a defensive tackle in the NFL. He simply lacks the width to really be a prominent run stopper.
The upside is that Crawford does show the ability to get upfield on tape. He may make more negative plays than Poe, but the Falcons will be softer up the middle in 2018. If he can give them the production of an adequate starter it will go a long way towards helping the Atlanta defense be successful. If he falls short, his group may be too soft to earn a playoff berth.