1. Revival of the Grits Blitz. Ideally, Falcons coach Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator Richard Smith would love to create a pass rush from the front-four defensive line players.
But after not registering a sack against Tampa Bay, the Falcons are considering blitzing more to manufacture some pressure and sacks.
Quinn figured that the Falcons blitzed Tampa Bay about 10 times. Two of their credited five quarterbacks hits came off blitzes. The Falcons counted six quarterback hits.
When the Falcons blitz, they have to play more man-to-man coverage and are counting on rookie De’Vondre Campbell to hold up in coverage against backs and tight ends. He was called for a defensive holding on Tampa Bay’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the first defensive possession.
“We’re pleased to see him at the line of scrimmage being able to challenge,” Quinn said. “That’s going to be a factor for us and one that we knew we wanted to be able to do. I was anxious to see him and Kemal Ishmael.”
Rookie safety Keanu Neal, who’s likely to return against the Saints at the earliest, was also drafted to help cover backs and tight ends.
“We knew that was going to be a factor with Keanu Neal and so with him out we’re going to ask Ish to step up and do some things as well,” Quinn said. “It’s definitely a plan of what we want do, and we started that somewhat (against Tampa Bay).”
2. Project pass rush. Quinn was not pleased with the overall pass rush, but found some positives.
“Well we saw more speed for sure,” Quinn said. “That part we saw. I think (it) ended up being six quarterback hits. Not all of them are on the four-man rush. It’s really an area that we’re still emphasizing and we’re not going to be as good as we will be as we’re working through the year both in our base package and nickel package. There were definitely some signs of encouraging things.”
The Falcons want sacks, but they count the hits and hurries, too. The Falcons’ defensive braintrust, at the very minimum, want the make the opposing quarterback throw on the run.
“Most quarterbacks when you get them off the spot the completion percentage goes down and honestly that’s what you’re looking for first,” Quinn said. “What you love about the sacks on first and second down are the yards that are lost and even third down it’s an opportunity to get the ball off somebody.
“Generally, the most fumbles come from the quarterback so getting him off the spot is good, but we do like tackling where that opportunity is there to make a game-changing play with the sack, that’s the forced fumble.”
The Falcons had a tough time getting to Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw some accurate passes when he was under duress.
“For us not to get him down there were some hits like we addressed earlier, but it’s still a factor when you get the guy wrapped up and you’re taking a shot at the ball on the way down,” Quinn said.
3. Alford on his penalty. Falcons cornerback Robert Alford lost his cool for a second in the third quarter against Tampa Bay and stuck his finger in Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans’ face.
Side judge Dyrol Prioleau tossed the flag for the unnecessary roughness.
Alford didn’t get his money’s worth. While the move was unnecessary it clearly wasn’t rough.
“I’ll take total charge of that penalty,” Alford said. “I could have just walked away. That would have been the right thing to do. I mean there is nothing else to do. I take full responsibility for it. It’s something that moving toward the future it won’t happen again.”
It was a third down-and-8 on Tampa Bay’s 10-yard line. Defensive end Tyson Jackson had batted down a Winston pass and the Falcons should have been off the field.
Safety Kemal Ishmael was also called for defensive holding after he grabbed Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin on his way out of the backfield and into his pass route.
Ishmael’s penalty was declined and the Bucs accepted Alford’s penalty.
Five plays later, Winston connected with Evans for a 45-yard touchdown with Alford and Robenson Thereize in coverage.
After the penalty, Alford, who was restrained by cornerback Desmond Trufant, went over to talk to defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel. Later, Quinn had a stern message for Alford, who had five tackles and two pass breakups.
“It wasn’t anything that we didn’t go over in practice,” Alford said of facing Tampa Bay. “Basically, we just beat ourselves with the penalties. We had too many penalties.”
The Bucs had four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more and three of them were aided by Falcons’ penalties on third downs.
“I think we played well,” Alford said. “The only thing we need to work on is those penalties. We had a couple of drives that we keep going because of penalties. I think that’s what led up to the way the game ended yesterday.”
4. Swimming Poole. Nickel back Brian Poole had a strong game against Tampa Bay in his NFL debut.
He played 41 of the 64 (64 percent) of the defensive snaps and finished with three tackles.
“He did a really good job, but like for all of the players there is always something that you can learn from on film,” Alford said.
5. No color rush for Falcons. The Falcons will wear regular all-white road uniforms for their “color rush” game against Tampa Bay on Thursday, Nov. 3.
The Falcons selected an all-red uniform, however due to a color conflict, Atlanta will wear their white uniform as the away team.
As the home team, the Buccaneers — who also chose an all-red look — will wear their “color rush” uniform instead. That Red on Red game would have been awesome.
6. Anthem stance. The Falcons discussed whether to protest during the National Anthem at the home opener, but elected to all stand.
“We did and we decided not to do anything,” Quinn said. “As a group, we felt like we wanted to make Sunday about 9/11 and the memory of that day and the significance for our country on that day.
“So not to take away from anyone else, but we just felt on that day it was a game changer for lots of us. For the guys who were young coming up, we talked about that and even showed some film on that for Saturday morning. …We had a lot of talk about it, we really did, but we really wanted to make that day about 9/11 and give its significance and it’s due the proper respect.”
7. Sanu watch. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu had two drops against Tampa Bay, one crucial drop on the final Falcons’ drive of the game of a pass that was slightly behind him. Sanu dropped just one pass in all of 2015, but came off a 2014 where he led the league with 14 dropped passes, according to profootballfocus.com.
8. Project pass rush II. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Dwight Freeney were the only two pass rushers able to create any meaningful pressure as both recorded two quarterback hits with Clayborn adding an additional hurry.
9. Toilolo, Tamme must improve run-blocking. Tight end Levine Toilolo struggled mightily with his run blocking against Tampa Bay. His 32.7 run block grade on 11 run blocks was lower than any run block grade he received in 2015, according to profootballfocus.com. Jacob Tamme also struggled in run blocking; his 67.9 run blocking is also considered below average.
As the Falcons prepare for the Raiders, the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov look at the issues facing the team and the biggest concerns this week in Oakland.
ATLANTA FALCONS OFFICIAL DEPTH CHART
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 68 Mike Person
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton
TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 19 Aldrick Robinson, 18 Taylor Gabriel
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux, 90 Derrick Shelby
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 56 Sean Weatherspoon
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie
S 36 Kemal Ishmael, 38 Dashon Goldson, 22 Keanu Neal
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 26 Tevin Coleman, 14 Eric Weems
PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24