As we close in on the season opener for the Falcons one thing is crystal clear. Both the Falcons and the Chiefs will rely heavily on their young players to get the job done. Not only are they being relied upon, but these young players are going to make their presences felt in a big way on Sunday.
Ready to make an impact for the Falcons
For Atlanta it all starts on the defensive side of the ball. 2011 Third round pick Akeem Dent is now the starter in place of Curtis Lofton at MLB. Dent is only in his second year in the league after being Atlanta's best special teams player last year as he picked up 20 tackles and forced two fumbles. Dent will be a big part of the defense when they take the field on Sunday. The Chiefs are getting star RB Jamaal Charles back from a knee injury and they also signed former Madden coverboy Peyton Hillis to back him up. Dent will have a full load when it comes to stopping the run and he'll gladly take on that challenge. The Falcons DTs likely won't be stuffing the run as much as they will be opening lanes for the LBs to come in and make the tackles. Dent had two very impressive games in the preseason against the Ravens and Jaguars and it looks like he's ready to get his first taste of real action in the NFL. Don't be surprised if Dent also gets involved in the pass rush as DC Mike Nolan likes to bring pressure from everywhere and Dent has show the ability to blitz effectively. You'll hear the name Dent and the #52 called a lot tomorrow as he will make his presence felt on the field.
I mentioned the DTs earlier and another man to keep a close eye on is rookie DT Travian Robertson. Roberston had a great preseason and was consistently pushing the pocket and clogging up running lanes when he was in the game. Robertson surprised a ton of folks over the course of the off-season with how strong and big he is. Robertson could be the big body in the middle that the Falcons have been lacking since Grady Jackson was on the team. As I mentioned earlier the Chiefs have a great rushing attack behind a very good interior OL. Travian Robertson will make his presence felt on Sunday by clogging up the running lanes, forcing the Chiefs backs to redirect, and controlling the line of scrimmage when he gets into the game. Although his name might not be called as much as Dent's don't be mistaken when Robertson is in, the Chiefs aren't gong to be able to run at will.
Finally on the offensive side keep a close eye on second year man JacQuizz Rodgers. Look for Rodgers to get involved in the game in a relief role for Turner, catching passes out of the backfield, catching screen passes, running on draws and returning kicks. Rodgers will be all over the place on the field Sunday and expect him to get many touches. Going against a hobbled Chiefs defense without Tamba Hali, Rodgers might be super effective going against the Chiefs LB corp on screen passes and well in the open field. Rodgers could be the dark horse to be the MVP of this game if Atlanta can win. Expect him to make his presence felt in a very big way.
Don't be mistaken the Falcons will also lean heavily on vets like Matt Ryan, Roddy White, John Abraham, and Sean Weatherspoon, but the young players might make the biggest impact in this game. Some of you might be wondering why I didn't list Julio Jones. Well I think we all know #11 is going to make his presence felt in a very big way on every Sunday as long as he stays healthy.