Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn wants to see a little more from his team’s running game this week when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town.
Quinn addressed several aspects of his offense during a midweek conference call with media in Cincinnati, but emphasized the Falcons are at their best when they are more balanced. Their lone win came against the Panthers in a game Quinn felt displayed the team’s best running game.
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Atlanta (1-2) hosts the Bengals (2-1) on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium coming off an overtime loss to the Saints. Here is a look at five takeaways from what Quinn said about the matchup with Cincinnati:
1. Sanu is everything he expected
The teams have only met twice before, in 2010 and 2014, but the Bengals are very familiar with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Cincinnati took Sanu in the third round of the 2012 draft and he spent his first four years with the team before leaving for Atlanta in 2016, Quinn’s second season with the Falcons.
Quinn said Sanu is exactly the player the Bengals saw and a nice addition to his offense. The Falcons use him in the slot and on the outside as a deep receiver.
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“One of the things that impressed me is generally that person in the slot sometimes is a smaller guy, but he has abilities, even though he is a bigger man, to really break guys off and change direction,” Quinn said. “So, forever I was always impressed by the aggressiveness that he went after the catches and contested, we call them aggressive hands, where two guys are fighting and he knows how to win on leverage. And, Matt (Ryan) does a good job of throwing to leverage to make sure the only guy can get it is Mo, so he’s been an excellent addition to our brotherhood here.”
2. Two-dimensional is best
The Falcons' passing game ranks 11th in the league (285.3 yards per game), and the offense seems tailored around quarterback Matt Ryan and a crew of five quality receivers, led by Julio Jones and rookie Calvin Ridley.
However, Quinn said the running game needs to improve. The Falcons' rushing offense ranks 21st (97.3 yards per game).
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“I think No. 1, the run game and the pass play, that’s kind of our life blood,” Quinn said. “We run a lot of wide zone, and then the play-action and the keepers that come off with it, that part, our offensive line really has to be able to get out of the stance and get moving. … When you have both and you can get the running game, the play pass and in our instance getting Matt outside the pocket on the keepers, those are what make us come to life.”
3. Bengals skill players jump out
Offensively, the Bengals and Falcons are very similar in that Cincinnati ranks right behind Atlanta in both passing and rushing offense, but Quinn is most impressed by the skill players on both sides of the ball.
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“When I studied them in the offseason and training camp, I was really impressed by the skill set,” he said. “We’ve kind of talked about the quarterback, running back, tight ends who can catch, tight ends who can block, receivers who can haul, so that part really jumped out at me. It was kind of like the skill guys on both sides, no doubt defensively with guys like Dunlap and Atkins, but when I saw the speed at safety, the speed at corner, those were the things that jumped out at me.”
4. Tight ends used well
Quinn likes the way the Bengals are using their three tight ends and said that will present a challenge for his defense.
“They play them all, and I know they play them all together some, but all of them have roles within the game plan,” Quinn said. “I’ve been impressed by the rotation I guess they call it. They use different guys attacking, and the early part of the season I think that’s definitely a strength of the team.”
5. Defense calling on depth
In the first three weeks of the season, the Falcons lost their two starting safeties to season-ending injuries with Ricardo Allen tearing his Achilles tendon last week against the Saints and Keanu Neal tearing his ACL earlier this year.
Quinn said that hasn’t changed the way he expects the defense to play.
“We really try to push our versatility on defense, and we are fortunate that Damontae Kazee is somebody that has been really well trained by Ricardo Allen,” Quinn said. “We will try to feature him in the ways we like to at the free safety spot. The strong safety spot is a little harder. Keanu (Neal) is such an enforcer of a safety, so we may have to use a couple of people to handle some of those jobs. Our roles may have changed, but our style, our attitude and our standard we want to play at should stay the same.”
Bengals at Falcons, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 1530, 102.7, 104.7