Coop and Crab Will Remain Kings of the Castle
Bother Cooper and Crabtree had a field day lining up against New Orleans’ younger corners after the Saints’ star corner Delvin Breaux left the game with injury. Now carrying in some added confidence, no injuries will have to occur for the two to pick up right where they left off.
Though 2013 first-round pick Desmond Trufant and 2013 second-round pick Mario Alford have developed into a strong duo starting opposite of each other at cornerback, the two failed to meet high expectations in their 2016 debut.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Trufant and Alford both earned significantly below average grades matching up against Tampa Bay receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, as the duo 55th and 56th overall cornerbacks who earned over 20 snaps in Week 1.
Because of his versatility, Trufant is expected to compete with Cooper for a majority of the day.
"“At times there will be some match-ups based on the down and distance and certainly some of the call,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said, via Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal. “We’ve worked hard at [Trufant] being able to play a number of different spots so, yeah. You will see him in different locations during the game.”"
With Trufant occupied with Cooper, Crabtree and Alford will have their own competition on the opposite sideline.
At 5’10”, 186 pounds, Alford will have his hands full against an aggressive receiver like Crabtree, and if Crab starts outperforming him from a physical standpoint, things are going to get ugly, early.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will Compete in a Shootout
Though Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likely won’t put up Brees numbers, he still can keep up in a shootout, especially with his star receiver Julio Jones lined up out wide.
In 2015, Ryan completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,591 yards and 21 touchdowns, and Jones accounted for 33 percent of both his targets and his completions.
Jones brought in 136 receptions of his 2014 targets (most in the NFL) for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015.
Though the duo didn’t wow anyone with their performance against Tampa Bay (Ryan completed just four of his eight targets to Jones for 66 yards and a touchdown), both Ryan and Jones should fair better against the Raiders’ struggling secondary.
Former Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith’s confidence took a hit in his Raiders debut, as he was benched after he capped off his already poor performance by letting New Orleans receiver Brandin Cooks beat him for a 98-yard touchdown. Smith is still expected to start against Atlanta, but he will spend a majority of his time lined up across from the Falcons No. 2 receiver Mohammad Sanu.
At 6’1”, 205 pounds, Raiders veteran cornerback David Amerson will take on an uphill battle matching up against Jones, but he is confident that he is the right guy to get the job done.
"“I feel like bigger receivers, for me, are better matchups for me because things that they’re good at are things that I feel like I’m good at,” Amerson said. “Stuff like going up and getting the ball, or playing the ball at the highest point, or [being] physical off the line, so it kind of matches up compared to a faster, shiftier, speedier guy.”"
Amerson will have some big pass break-ups against Jones, but he won’t walk off the field without a few blemishes to his performance.
Unless Oakland is able to make some significant improvements in their secondary during their preparation this week, expect the Falcons’ passing attack to drive up the score of the game.