Naming five Atlanta Falcons most weeks can be difficult. Yet, with the team facing a must-win contest against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, finding those with intriguing potential becomes a bit easier.
This week’s focus is on players who need to step up, either in new opportunities or familiar ones.
That begins with starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who needs to step up after a rough outing last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Heinicke’s decision-making must improve after throwing a game-changing interception last week.
The Falcons are currently on the second-longest active streak of games with a turnover at eight in a row. If the team hopes to take back control of their playoff potential along with Heinicke’s hopes of earning the permanent starting job for the remainder of the season, avoiding the turnover bug will be key.
Another player that needs to step up is rookie running back Bijan Robinson. Continuing on the theme of ball security, Robinson’s fumble preceded Heinicke’s interception as a huge turning point in last week’s loss to the Vikings.
Robinson has a chance to shine against the Cardinals, who have struggled to contain dynamic backs like Robinson throughout this season. We’ll see what his usage looks like after Arthur Smith heard an earful about it all week.
Falcons wide receiver Drake London doesn’t have to step up due to any struggles a week ago since he missed the Vikings game with a groin injury. But it’s an important week for London, who needs to establish a strong rapport with Heinicke, due to limited opportunities to work with him this season.
Like Robinson, London has a chance to shine against a weak Cardinals secondary, which would help Heinicke enjoy a better day.
The Falcons’ most recent trade acquisition in defensive tackle Kentavius Street is another player with an opportunity to step up. However, it was not due to anything lacking from him in his Falcons debut last week replacing an injured Grady Jarrett.
Instead, he needs to step up due to the status of fellow defensive tackle David Onyemata, who is https://twitter.com/mikerothstein/status/1723038045887238656y. If Onyemata is limited, Street has even bigger shoes to fill as the Falcons defensive line looks to take advantage of a beat-up Cardinals offensive line.
The last player that may need to step up is rookie cornerback Clark Phillips, who is expected to see his first snaps on defense this week with starting nickel cornerback Dee Alford out with an ankle injury. Phillips has only seen brief action this year on special teams. Alford’s primary backup has been Mike Hughes thus far, but after watching his failure to cover Brandon Powell in last week’s game-winning score, it’s time for the Falcons to see what Phillips offers.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has https://twitter.com/tori_mcelhaney/status/1723041802477805608. But hopefully, Hughes will be relegated to special teams while Phillips gets the bulk of the work on defense.
Can you name other Atlanta Falcons players you think need to step up or intrigue you in this upcoming matchup against the Arizona Cardinals?