As the Atlanta Falcons (3-6) get ready to hit the road to take on the New Orleans (7-2), FOX Sports analyst Kevin Burkhardt joins AtlantaFalcons.com to preview the upcoming NFC South battle.
Where have you seen the Falcons improve most since you called their game against the Cowboys in Week 2?
Kevin Burkhardt: I think the biggest thing them for them is closing out games. That Cowboys game was really the theme for what they were for the following that. I think they’re finding out how to put teams away. They are so explosive. What I see though recently, they are playing really fast. I like the way they are playing on defense – they’re running to the ball, they are playing with a little bit of a vigor, adrenaline if you will. I think that’s why they are 3-1 since Raheem took over. It’s not like there’s a heck of difference that I can see watching the games. The message was sent, the guys are playing faster and better.
What stands out to you most about what you’re seeing from Atlanta’s offense this year?
KB: I think they’ve always been explosive. But what I like this year is that really everyone is getting involved from a receiving standpoint. I like that it’s spread around and when Julio isn’t getting the ball is a diversion. I think this offensive line is playing better than I can remember for a while, that’s one noticeable difference to me. They are healthy for a change and I think they’re gelling and playing as well as I can remember since the Super Bowl year so those are the things that have impressed me so far.
When you watch film of the Falcons’ defense, who stands out?
KB: The easy answer is Grady Jarrett, he’s an incredible player. The guy that’s stood out to me the most has been Foye Oluokun. From a guy who was a role player trying to find his way into this defense, I think he’s been tremendous. He and Deion Jones have been a heck of a pair. I think he’s having almost a Pro Bowl worthy season; I love the way he plays the game. He’s fast, he can cover the field and has made some explosive plays, I kind of think it’s a star in the making here, I really enjoy watching him play and blossom.
What are you expecting to see from the Saints without Drew Brees?
KB: I’m expecting the unexpected. I think you’re going to see a ton of Taysom Hill and a ton of Alvin Kamara for New Orleans. I think Taysom Hill even with Jameis Winston likely to take a ton of snaps at quarterback, I think Hill is going to play under center. I think they are going to use him all over the field. I think that’s the biggest storyline from a Falcons defensive standpoint is stopping Taysom Hill. Because as great as Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas is, I really think he’s going to have a huge impact this week and if they slow him down, they have a great chance to win.
Who do you think will be the X-factor for the Falcons?
KB: Deion Jones for this reason: In conjunction working with Oluokun, but I think his matchup with Alvin Kamara is going to be huge. I think he’s going to be on him a lot of the time. The other thing is he’s become a really good blitzer, they’ve got to get to the quarterback. Grady Jarrett needs some help. There’s a ton on both linebackers this week to get to the quarterback.