The start of the 2020 season does not do the Falcons any favors schedule-wise. Atlanta opens with an ultra-talented Seattle Seahawks team led by Russell Wilson, followed by matchups with the Cowboys, Bears, and Packers. Unfortunately, the schedule towards the end of the season is even more challenging, so the Falcons must start off on the right foot. Here are the players that need to step up in Week 1 for that to happen against Seattle.
Dante Fowler Jr. and Takk McKinley
The Seahawks have a few good receiving threats, but none should strike too much fear into the Falcons secondary. Seattle is most explosive when Russell Wilson buys time by escaping the pocket. That allows his speedy wide receiving core to create space, and when they do, Wilson rarely misses his target. It’s almost impossible to do for a full 60 minutes, but it is imperative that Fowler and McKinley contain Wilson as much as possible, keeping him in the pocket. Deion Jones will also play a part in this, as he will likely assume a QB spy role in passing situations.
If the Falcons can keep Wilson from scrambling, they’ll have a fantastic chance of opening their season with a win. On top of that, Fowler and McKinley will be primarily responsible for applying pressure. The Seahawks feature one of the worst offensive lines in the league, so this is a golden opportunity for these guys to rack up some early season sacks.
Terrell very well could be the key to the entire Falcons season. If he can step up and fill the shoes of Desmond Trufant as a rookie, Atlanta’s secondary should be much-improved in 2020, but if he struggles as Isaiah Oliver did in his first 1 1/2 seasons, the Falcons will be in trouble.
It’s almost not fair that his first matchup comes against Russell Wilson, but the rookie seems to be up to the task. Ever since he was drafted, the coaches have raved about how quickly he picked things up, and he continued to impress throughout training camp with his skills and competitive nature. However, come Sunday, his discipline will have to be on display. No matter how great Dante Fowler, Takk Mckinley, and the rest of the Falcons defense are at containing Russell Wilson, he will eventually break loose, looking downfield for chunk yardage. It will be critical for Terrell to stay focused on his man and not on what is going on in the backfield.
The Seahawks don’t have a great defensive line, as they ranked 24th in sacks per game last season. Still, Kaleb McGary is arguably the most vulnerable piece on Atlanta’s offensive line. If Seattle is going to get pressure, it is likely going to come off the right edge. If McGary can hold his own, Matt Ryan should have plenty of time to throw, resulting in a terrific game for the Falcons offense. Seattle doesn’t have the coverage options to guard all of Atlanta’s weapons. The only way they will be able to slow down the Falcons is by getting to Matt Ryan. McGary will be key in ensuring that doesn’t happen.