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Browns vs. Falcons: Getting to Know the Enemy With The Falcoholic

David Choate from The Falcoholic exchanged five questions with us, discussing how poorly rookie LT Jake Matthews has played, who WR Josh Gordon will line up against in the secondary, whether the Falcons will make the postseason, and more.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Atlanta Falcons. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to David Choate from The Falcoholic and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!


Chris: "The Falcons took LT Jake Matthews with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, but he hasn't graded out too well on Pro Football Focus. How badly has he struggled and what impact has it had on the Falcons' offense?"

David: "The impact has ranged from mildly problematic to extremely troublesome. When Matthews was dealing with a re-aggravation of an existing ankle injury that cost him a little time early in the season, he struggled mightily, and the line couldn't hold.

As that ankle has gotten healthier, Matthews still isn't where he needs to be, but he's been better. The Panthers were able to slice past him and apply pressure on Matt Ryan just this last week, so there's still plenty of kinks to work out for the young tackle.

Ideally, Matthews would be excellent the rest of the way. Given that he's a rookie left tackle on a line that's a bit ramshackle at the moment, however, I can't say I expect to see massive improvement until 2015. "

Chris: "For the second year in a row, RB Steven Jackson is having a sub-par type of season. Do fans still support him as the team's starting running back, or have the issues more so been with Atlanta's run blocking?"

David: "There's not widespread support for Jackson, but I think he's both limited by the offensive line and the play calling. The Falcons tend to run at predictable times and give Jackson plenty of carries toward the middle of the line to try to soften up a defense, which results in a fairly anemic yards per carry average. He's had quality games, but he's clearly a step or two slower than he once was, and not nearly as effective for the Falcons as he was for the Rams. Atlanta will hopefully learn from this that signing an aging running back is not an effective use of their free agent dollars.

That said, considering the state of the offense, fans are giving Jackson more crap than he deserves. He's still had some quality weeks for them and continues to at least get positive yardage every time out, even when defenses can see the run coming from a mile away.

I agreed with you that the Falcons might be in on Ben Tate, given that they'll likely cut Steven Jackson and only have one running back under contract in 2015. Atlanta really needs to find out what they have with rookie back Devonta Freeman, who has done some quality work his limited touches thus far. I expect you'll see more of him Sunday. "

Chris: "The Falcons rank 32nd in the league against the pass and WR Josh Gordon makes his return this week. Without getting too giddy, I'm sure you'd understand why Browns fans see this as the perfect week for Gordon to return. How have the starters in Atlanta's secondary played on an individual basis (i.e. who is a strength, who is a weakness)?"

David: "The problem with that ranking is that it devalues the good work done by Desmond Trufant and Dwight Lowery, and Trufant is likely the only man Josh Gordon is going to see.

Gordon's so good it might not matter, but Trufant is one of the league's best cornerbacks already, ranking #9 in Pro Football Focus's coverage ratings and frequently making plays on the ball, even if he has a bit of a reputation for dropping easy interceptions. There's no question my mind that he'll give Gordon all he can handle. Dwight Lowery is solid across the board at free safety, and he may be giving help to whoever has to handle Gordon.

You'll be able to exploit Robert McClain a bit. He'll likely start outside opposite Trufant as a replacement for the injured Robert Alford, and he hasn't had a good go of it since a very effective 2012 campaign. Starting strong safety Kemal Ishmael is a ballhawk and big hitter, but he's a liability in deep coverage, if you can get him out there on an island.

Your best bet by far is to target the tight end when you're not looking for Gordon. The Falcons have wised up a little and started putting their safeties on opposing TEs, mitigating this advantage a little, but their linebackers sometimes wind up in coverage and are usually active liabilities. "

Chris: "Since the departure of C Alex Mack, Cleveland's offensive line has struggled against certain defensive linemen and linebackers more than fans are accustom to. Who is the Falcons' best pass rusher, if any, and who is the team's best run stopper?"

David: "Jonathan Massaquoi is the team's best pass rusher, and he should be healthy after a leg injury limited him to around 15 snaps combined over the last two weeks. He's explosive and strong, and while the Falcons don't have a single elite pass rusher on the team, Massaquoi can be effective and a real nuisance. If Cleveland's weakness is more on the interior of the line, I'd watch out for Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux, two defensive tackles who can slash through the line.

The most effective run stoppers are Peters (he's quietly quite good) and second-year end Malliciah Goodman. They're both strong at the point of attack. "

Chris: "The Falcons are 4-6 right now. There's a good chance that even if they lose to Cleveland, they would still lead the NFC South with a 4-7 record after this week. Prediction: Do you think the Falcons make the postseason? My hunch keeps telling me that the Saints have to get their act together at SOME point, right?"

David: "I'm afraid to apply my unique, potent brand of jinxing to anything, so I'll just say it's certainly possible they could. The NFC South is deeply, deeply dysfunctional, and just based on salary cap situations, only the Buccaneers and Falcons really have a chance of getting demonstrably better in 2015. For this year, in my mind, it's between the Saints and Falcons for the division crown, and there's little doubt the Saints have the easier schedule.

I'll cop out and say it's a coin flip. "


Thanks again to David for taking the time to answer my questions.