It hardly seems as if it's been six days since the Bills handled the Saints (or vice versa), but alas, the Bills square off against the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow night. As I am blessed with Bills season tickets (gracias, Papa G), I will be attending this hallowed event. I can't wait to see the Bills from a first-person perspective for the second time this week - that may be a first in my entire life.
In the meantime, we've got another guest at Buffalo Rumblings this morning - the ever-hilarious Dave the Falconer from The Falcoholic, which provides excellent Falcons coverage for SB Nation. Out of respect for Dave, I managed to avoid the "V-word" during our five question swap; it was a very hard thing to do, admittedly. Here's a mini-Falcons preview to study up on and take with you to the game (or the fridge while watching the tape delay); my questions are in bold:
Joey Harrington, while not overly impressive, did provide a bit of a mid-season spark for the Dolphins last year. What are your expectations for him this season if he does in fact become your team's starter?
TF: Harrington is almost certainly locked in as the starter now, so we're stuck with him. I've been accused by a few people of being a Negative Nancy when it comes to Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo, but I just don't see the reason for optimism. For his career, he's completed a distinctly average 55% of his passes and thrown five more interceptions than touchdowns. He's also only decently mobile and is famous for making dumb decisions when throwing from the pocket. In essence, he's the very definition of a mediocre-to-average QB. I would fully expect him to complete between 55-58% of his passes, throw anywhere from 2 to 6 more interceptions than TDs, and make one or two game winning plays and one or two plays that cost the Falcons the game. In essence, I expect him to be average all year--unless the coach staff gets tired of that and decides to bench him.
What is the latest on Warrick Dunn? How is he coming along with his injury, and when he does come back how do you expect him to be used as the crux of a still-potent Falcons rushing attack?
TF: Warrick Dunn is coming back to practice, which is encouraging. He's been a terrific back for us over the years, and this team needs him badly right now. That being said, he's getting up there and the last couple season seems to be losing his legs a little bit. I think the team will use him and Jerious Norwood in a platoon, which each getting 10-15 carries a game and 7th round pick Jason Snelling perhaps getting a few carries on third down. Dunn is still an effective back, but I don't think it's fair to ask him to be the crux anymore. Norwood has blazing speed and makes great cuts, so he should be groomed to be the featured back in this system.
Which three not-so-prominent Falcons players will you be keeping an eye on in this game?
TF: There's a lot of players who bear watching in this game. Quarterbacks D.J. Shockley, Chris Redman and perhaps Casey Bramlet are all duking it out for the last two quarterback spots. Shockley has a strong arm and can move but makes poor decisions and needs to play well here to make a case for the backup job. Chris Redman has been historically pretty crappy and hasn't played in the NFL for a few years, but coach Bobby Petrino was in charge of him in Louisville. Bramlet may just be a camp body, but I'm intrigued. You'll also want to keep an eye on 3rd round pick Laurent Robinson, who looks like a pretty talented and athletic receiver. Because he's the only big back on the roster, the previously mentioned Jason Snelling deserves a look as well. Finally, I'm hoping to see our draft picks at corner--Chris Houston and David Irons--pick off Losman, Edwards and Nall a few times each. Wishful thinking.
How has first-round pick Jamaal Anderson looked in camp thus far? How do the Falcons plan on using him this season?
TF: Jamaal Anderson has looked pretty good in camp and is almost certainly our opening day starter. He's got a good combination of size and speed and could pile up some sacks in his rookie year with John Abraham attracting double teams opposite him. It would take an injury to keep Anderson out of the starting job, and I fully expect the coaching staff to try to utilize his speed as a pass rusher.
What is your take on Bobby Petrino? Are you at all worried about the "college coaches don't work in the NFL" stereotype, or do you think he's got promise at this level?
TF: I'm always concerned about that stereotype, because the Falcons have been down this road before. Perhaps you remember June Jones and the Run n' Gun? That being said, Petrino has impressed me with his preparation and the fact that he appears to be some sort of mechanical man. What gives him a good chance in my mind is that he doesn't appear to have a gimmick. He just throws out tons of different packages and employs some good ol' fashioned gigantic offensive linemen and ballhawk corners to get the job done. There's always the chance that he'll fail, and it wouldn't be realistic to expect him to carry us to a Super Bowl this year. Even if we make some baby steps forward, though, I'll be pretty happy with Petrino this year.
Many thanks to Dave the Falconer for taking the time to provide us with a little insight on this week's opponent. The Bills walloped the Harrington-led Dolphins 21-0 last year in Orchard Park; I expect nothing less than thorough domination once again. Be sure to head on over to The Falcoholic to see my interview with Dave as well.
We'll be back later this afternoon with notes from last night's practice. Go Bills!