Facing Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III in back-to-back weeks might sound like a nightmare scenario for most NFL defenses.
Falcons Coach Mike Smith, however, hopes it will help his undefeated squad prepare for a Redskins rookie he described as impressive and unbelievable.
In some instances it does, Smith said. You can find out what doesnt work. We did some things last week that werent as effective as wed like it to be.
Newton and Griffin are often mentioned in the same breath because of their ability to hurt defenses through the air and on the ground.
The Falcons eked out a 30-28 victory over Newtons Panthers last Sunday in Atlanta, but the Carolina quarterback had a strong performance statistically. Newton was 15 of 24 passing for 215 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 89 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
Most teams you face, the quarterback is the distributor, meaning he hands off the ball to a running back or he throws the ball to someone else, Smith said. Now, you have to account for him in your run defense. Youve got to put an extra guy on the quarterback to get the math right when the quarterback is a runner.
The Falcons defense is yielding only 19 points per game (eighth), but their run defense has been susceptible as Newton proved last week. Against the run, Atlanta is giving up 146.3 yards per game (29th).
That, obviously, is a weakness the Redskins hope to exploit. Through four games, they lead the league in rushing yards (684) and rushing touchdowns (eight, four by Griffin and four by Alfred Morris). Morris ranks fifth in yards on the ground with 376, while Griffin leads all quarterbacks with 234.
Smith avoided any direct comparisons of Griffin and Newton. But the Falcons coach did not shy away from heaping praise on the Redskins standout.
Oh my gosh he is very impressive, Smith said of Griffin. His is ability to come into the NFL and basically be one of the top five quarterbacks through the first quarter of the season in terms of passer rating is just unbelievable. I think theyve done a very good job in their passing game and thats not even his biggest strength. His biggest strength is his ability to run the football.
Its going to be a big challenge for us this week, he added. Im super impressed with your quarterback.