Inside slant: Atlanta Falcons Week 6

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The bad news keeps coming.

Right tackle Todd Weiner had arthroscopic left knee surgery Wednesday morning to repair cartilage damage and could be out for up to six weeks. The loss of Weiner comes a day after the Falcons placed left tackle Wayne Gandy on injured reserve after Gandy suffered a torn ACL in his left knee late in Atlanta's 20-13 loss at Tennessee Sunday.

Tyson Clabo, who started 10 games at guard last season and has been inactive this season, will take over for Weiner. Rookie Renardo Foster, an undrafted rookie free agent from Louisville, will start at left tackle.

Their baptism comes Monday night against the New York Giants and pass-rushing ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

"You look at it one of two ways," center Todd McClure said. "You could say 'Oh I'm getting thrown in here against the team that had 12 sacks (in one game).' Or you can look at it as an opportunity. If I go out here and play good, then what are people going to say?"

Foster replaced Gandy for more than three quarters against Jacksonville in Week 2 after Gandy suffered a hamstring injury and played fairly well. He stepped in for Weiner for most of the final three quarters against the Titans.

"The main thing is going into the week knowing that I have to start," Foster said. "It takes a whole lot more focus that what I've been giving. Now it's a lot of attention to detail.

"This Monday we've got a real good New York Giants team coming in with some good pass rushers. The main thing this week is going to be technique and maybe if can talk to Wayne to learn some edges or this and that about guys rushing and go from there."

Clabo performed fairly well at both guard spots last season, especially in the running game. He has not played tackle since college, but he has a very nasty temperament, which is something that is needed more along Atlanta's front.

"There is a big difference," Clabo said about moving to tackle. "Luckily, I have been getting some work outside at practice. That will help me adjust. It's just a matter of adjusting to playing in space. I've played out there before. I should be able to compete out there and play to win.

Strahan and Umenyiora are, "obviously top tier as far as their front goes. It's a huge challenge. We're going to rise and hit it head on."

Though the situation at tackle looks potentially problematic, the Falcons guards have not delivered as well as hoped. Right guard Kynan Forney has been dominant at times but he's not been as consistent as needed. Rookie left guard Justin Blalock has been hot and cold and had a really tough go of things vs. the Titans.

Blalock and Foster playing side-by-side seemingly opens the door for trouble but the pair played very well together at Jacksonville. The Falcons tended to run the ball better to the left against the Jaguars.

Where there is concern now is depth along the offensive line.

Quinn Ojinnaka, who was groomed by the last coaching staff to possibly take over for Gandy in a few years, will serve as the swing tackle.

Everything was peaceful and businesslike as players returned to practice Wednesday after two days off to calm the hot tempers that were rampant in the locker room following Sunday's loss at Tennessee. Players toed the company line while the coaching staff continues to proceed as if everything is back to normal -- as normal as things can be, that is.

"I think everybody in our organization is on the same page," said tight end Alge Crumpler, who was critical of coach Bobby Petrino after the loss at Tennessee. "We're about winning. We are going to find ways to come together, stick together and win."

Crumpler met with Petrino Monday morning and said they came to a peaceable resolution.

"With respect (to) that conversation, I won't get into the details but we definitely agreed that we're capable of winning games and that it's just a matter of time for us to go out there and start doing the things that we're capable of doing," Crumpler said. "I care about the guys in this locker room so much and just want to win so bad. I hate that my frustrations got the best of me in an instant right after a game. We cleared the air. We talked about some things."

SERIES HISTORY

19th meeting. Falcons lead the series, 10-8. New York defeated the Falcons 27-14 in 2006, rallying from a 14-3 third-quarter deficit at the Georgia Dome. Former Giants tailback Tiki Barber rushed for 185 yards to out-duel Warrick Dun (146 yards) in an exciting showcase for small, veteran tailbacks.

--The Falcons had defeated the Giants three consecutive times before New York snapped the string last season. All of Atlanta's victories in that stretch were on the road.

--Atlanta tailback Warrick Dunn has yet to rush for 90 yards in a game this season.

--The Falcons are 3-7 vs. the Giants at the Georgia Dome.

--Atlanta head coach Bobby Petrino's only NFL coaching experience came as a member of Giants coach Tom Coughlin's staff in Jacksonville from 1999-2001.

--The Falcons are 8-8 at home on Monday night and have won their last four games at the Georgia Dome on Monday night.

BY THE NUMBERS

290 -- Yards needed by Falcons tailback Warrick Dunn to reach 10,000 rushing yards for his career.

QUOTE TO NOTE

"Like I've said from Day One, my job is to be ready to play. If I'm looking over my shoulder, I'm not doing my job." -- Quarterback Joey Harrington, on if he feels threatened by Byron Leftwich being promoted to No. 2.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

With Renardo Foster making his first NFL start at left tackle and Tyson Clabo, who has not been active this season and moving from guard to starting right tackle, Atlanta is going to have to design some ways to help them, particularly in pass protection.

The Falcons likely will use several two-tight end or H-back sets and having that extra body available to, at the very least, chip the play-side rusher while releasing for the pass pattern. Atlanta also could use more two-back sets, either with tailback Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood or with one of those two and fullback Ovie Mughelli.

Coach Bobby Petrino prefers to use a lot of three- and four-receiver sets but that formation typically triggers defenses to blitz up the middle or run looping twists with the ends and tackles so the ends can try to come inside the guard-center game and confuse those responsible to block them.

The short passing game will be employed but that can only be successful for so long. Tennessee's cornerbacks did a great job of jumping the quick slants the Falcons tried to run, repeatedly disrupting Atlanta's plans.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--DT Rod Coleman (knee surgery) went through a relatively intense practice Wednesday and appears set to play Monday night vs. the Giants. Coleman practiced three times last week but was inactive for the game vs. Tennessee because the coaches did not feel he was completely healthy enough to risk another setback.

--DT Jonathan Babineaux (stretched knee ligament) also could return to play against the Giants after missing the past three games. If Coleman and Babineaux come back, rookie Trey Lewis, who has started the past two games and has played well, would back up nose tackle Grady Jackson. Lewis is projected, long term, as a nose tackle.

--FS Jimmy Williams was replaced in nickel packages by Antoine Harris, relegating Williams solely to special teams. The move was not a reflection of Williams' play, according to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

--SLB Michael Boley is playing at a Pro Bowl level and is arguably playing better than anybody on the team.

--C Todd McClure said everyone is frustrated with the lack of production with the running game but nobody thinks that element of the offense is a lost cause.

GAME PLAN

With the Giants' defensive ends likely to get up-field pressure, the Falcons are going to have to incorporate the screen passing game and some delay-draws to take advantage of some natural lanes that could present themselves.

Atlanta was successful, to some degree, using both ploys against the Titans last week, when Tennessee's defensive linemen routinely penetrated deep into the offensive backfield. Tailback Warrick Dunn slipped off tackle a few times, including his late-game, 18-yard run that moved the ball just outside of the Titans' goal line.

The Falcons have had some success in the screen game but the effectiveness tends to coincide with the ability to hit some downfield passes. If the Giants cornerbacks, in harmony with getting up front pressure, take away the ability for Atlanta to throw some deep passes, the screen game won't work.

Coach Bobby Petrino probably will test New York deep early, before the front can get geared up. The Falcons have a fairly decent passing game outside of the field numbers, which could open up the deep middle third for tight end Alge Crumpler. On that note, Crumpler complained about the lack of throws to him in that part of the field.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Giants receivers vs. Falcons DBs. The most intriguing matchup will be New York's Plaxico Burress, who has seven TDs, against Atlanta's DeAngelo Hall. So far, Hall has gained most of his attention for a sideline outburst and three crucial penalties on one drive in a loss to Carolina. However, Hall, a two-time Pro Bowler, might be playing the best football of his career. Burress will have his receptions, but like most teams that have played Atlanta, the Giants might not test Hall very much.

That said, New York is going to go after RCBs Lewis Sanders/Chris Houston, who platoon every few series and never really get into much of a consistent rhythm. Sanders has been picked on by a few foes while Houston is getting better, but is still vulnerable if he can't get a quick jam.

Falcons SLB Michael Boley vs. Giants TE Jeremy Shockey. Boley is playing at a Pro Bowl level in all phases but he's going to be tested like at no other point this season by Shockey.

Falcons TE Alge Crumpler vs. Giants SS James Butler. Crumpler, in not too kind terms, called out Petrino to start getting him the ball in the deep middle if opposing teams are in Cover 2 or aligned with two deep safeties. Butler would be the defender most likely assigned to mind Crumpler.

With the Falcons utilizing a slot receiver or an H-back off the tight end side on some pass routes, there are patterns that could freeze Butler for the split second to free Crumpler.

INJURY IMPACT

Clearly, the Falcons loss of starting tackles Todd Weiner (left knee) and Wayne Gandy (left knee, IR) opens the possibility of Giants pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan having big games. Undrafted rookie Renardo Foster will fill in for Gandy while Tyson Clabo, who is more of a guard and has limited lateral mobility, will replace Weiner. The Giants could put a lot of pressure on whomever Atlanta's quarterback is if they do a lot of twisting and run as many games as they did a few weeks back vs. the Eagles.


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