This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Atlanta Falcons. To help preview a few topics from the Falcons’ perspective, we reached out to Kevin Knight from The Falcoholic and exchanged six questions with him. Enjoy!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 1.5-point favorites against the Falcons.
Chris: “In my head, I have a lot of questions about the Falcons’ offense (including having a new quarterback for the first time in such a long time), but I can’t help but ask about Cordarrelle Patterson. It seems astounding that at age 31, he is statistically off to such a good start, including two games where he ran for 141 and 120 yards. Is this a bit of a lucky stretch for Patterson? Is the offensive line doing great work? What is going on?”
Kevin: “It’s a bit of both. The offensive line is playing far better than last season in pass protection, but the run blocking in particular has been excellent against the Saints (Week 1) and Seahawks (Week 3). I don’t think it’s luck for Patterson, I think he’s always been this talented and teams just couldn’t figure out how to use him. Props to Arthur Smith for seeing his limited utilization as a running back and converting him to the position full-time over the past two seasons. He is 31, but because he’s only been a starting RB for a single season, he doesn’t have the wear-and-tear typically associated with the position. Right now, Patterson looks like one of the most dynamic runners in the NFL.”
Chris: “The Falcons selected WR Drake London with the 8th overall pick of this year’s draft — how has the first-rounder performed?”
Kevin: “Drake London has been everything the team hoped for through three games. He leads the team in receiving yardage (214) and receiving TDs (2) and is currently on pace for the best rookie season in franchise history—yes, even better than Julio Jones and Kyle Pitts. We’ll see if he can keep up the pace, but right now London looks like the piece the Falcons desperately needed in 2021. Teams have continued to dedicate enormous resources to slowing down Kyle Pitts, and London has taken full advantage. His size, physicality, route running, and yards after catch ability have all been excellent so far.”
Chris: “Atlanta’s defense doesn’t seem to be in the best of shape — what is the worst aspect of that group?”
Kevin: “Atlanta’s defense is just not very talented. The premium draft picks have mostly gone to the offense, leaving the defense manned by a lot of veteran minimum players and Day 2/Day 3 draft picks. It’s one of the youngest units in the NFL, as well, so there’s the potential for growth as the season goes on.
Honestly, the worst aspect has been when the defense plays zone coverage. There are so many mistakes and Atlanta’s lack of high-end pass rush has led to them getting carved up. Dean Pees wants to blitz as much as possible to cover up for an undermanned defensive front, but this secondary plays much better in man coverage. I do wonder if things improve once slot corner Isaiah Oliver, who has been on IR for the first three games, returns—possibly in Week 5.”
Chris: “KhaDarel Hodge was a solid receiver in Cleveland, after being pigeon-holed as a special teams gunner. Has he caught the eye of Falcons fans?”
Kevin: “KhaDarel Hodge has been a pleasant surprise for the Falcons thus far. Obviously, his special teams contributions are excellent, but he’s functioned as Atlanta’s WR3 and is fourth on the team in receiving through three games with 5 catches for 95 yards (19.0 YPR). Atlanta has utilized Hodge on a lot of intermediate routes, and he seems to have good chemistry with Marcus Mariota.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Kevin: “Second-year safety Richie Grant notched his first interception of the season against the Seahawks, nearly got his hands on another one, and had a strong game in both run support and coverage. He’s really settled into his role as a starter and is starting to get more comfortable taking chances on the ball. I’d keep an eye on him as a dangerous but unheralded part of a mistake-prone but opportunistic Atlanta secondary.”
Chris: “The Browns are early favorites to beat the Falcons on Sunday (Browns -1.5 as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Kevin: “I expect the Browns to be able to move the ball against Atlanta. The Falcons are allowing 4.8 YPA on the ground, and I’m sure Cleveland will look to pound the rock with Nick Chubb. What will decide the game is whether or not Atlanta’s offense can keep pace, which they’ve done a surprisingly good job of so far. The Browns appear to be pretty banged up with injuries, which could give the Falcons a better chance at putting points on the board. I expect the game to be close—Atlanta’s point differential thus far is just -1—so I’ll take Atlanta +1.5”
Thanks again to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions.