Behind Enemy Lines: Cowboys-Falcons Q&A With FalconsInsider's Bill Shanks

What better way to prepare for a clash of the undefeateds than by getting the inside scoop on Dallas' next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.

It's always an interesting dynamic when the head coach's message gets stale and a team with some talent fails to live up to expectations. Is that what you had in Atlanta with Mike Smith and what has Dan Quinn changed about the way the Falcons are approaching things in 2015?
FalconsInsider: Mike Smith was a tremendous head coach for the Falcons. He is the most successful coach in Atlanta's mediocre history. But the combination of injuries, bad personnel decisions from the front office and yes, a somewhat stale message led to his demise. Like any new head coach, Quinn has come in with a positive spirit and a contagious energy that has resonated through the team. Smith is a good coach, but he just hit his ceiling and a new voice was needed. It was a tough call to let him go, and he by no means deserves all the blame for two bad seasons following NFC Championship appearance. But Quinn has showed why a change was needed.
It's a strange dynamic where two opponents have faced the exact same previous opponents, but that's what we have here. Give our readers an overview of what worked and what didn't work for the Falcons against the Giants and the Eagles.
The Falcons had a big 20-3 halftime lead over Philadelphia and then came back. They were then down by 10 in the 4th quarter to the Giants and came back. It was two games they would not have won last season. Both the Eagles and Giants are obviously not living up to the expectations so far. Atlanta's defense held both teams to under what both were probably expecting to score. Julio Jones worked, as he continues to show why he's one of the best overall players in the NFL. There was little that didn't work in both games, with the exception of the injury to running back Tevin Coleman last week against New York, which could change plans moving forward.
Atlanta has struggled with the tight end position since the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, now your using Jacob Tamme. You all let slot man Harry Douglas walk and replaced him with big body Leonard Hankerson. We all know what Atlanta boasts in superstar Julio Jones and the still dangerous Roddy White. Are Tamme and Hankerson winning matchups, and if so in what way are they best utilized that the Cowboys should be prepared for?
Tamme did very well last week against the Giants and it was good to see a tight end produce something for the Falcons after last season. Tamme is not Tony Gonzalez, but he's not Levine Toilolo either. Toilolo tried to replace Gonzalez last year and failed. Hankerson looks like a great replacement for Harry Douglas so far. With Roddy White getting older by the day, Hankerson could have more of a larger role than Douglas had last year. Both Tamme and Hankerson are new targets for Matt Ryan, and they should not be ignored with Jones getting most o the attention.
Dan Quinn's calling card is the defense. It appears that along the line he's focused on having a group of run stuffers and a group of pass rushers that don't really overlap much. Has this been a successful strategy and what have the results been when the Falcons are caught in the "wrong" personnel for the offensive playcall?
The depth on the defensive line is the biggest change. Obviously, rookie Vic Beasley is off to a strong start. Second-year lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has turned the corner. Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux have been very solid. The linebackers, led by former Cowboys' linebacker Justin Durant, have been very good. They are putting more pressure on the quarterback, and it's assumed they will go right after Dallas' backup quarterback this week.
Wtih the struggles of the last few years, it's easy to have fallen behind on the talent level of the Falcons. Give us the names and attributes of some of the better Falcons players who will introduce themselves to Cowboys Nation on Sunday.
Hageman could be a star, but Desmond Trufant is the player to watch. The Giants avoided the cornerback last week and rightfully so. Trufant is a rising star in Atlanta's secondary. Also, safety Ricardo Allen is new to the position and the results are positive so far. Watch Atlanta's offensive line. It's brand new and so far it's been okay. But will Dallas' defense have success wearing it down? That could be a key Sunday.
Bonus Question: How do you see the game playing out on Sunday

I have been saying all week that Atlanta fans should not take Dallas for granted, regardless of which players can't play for them. But if the Falcons get home Sunday and say, "We lost in Dallas and they didn't have Romo and Bryant..." they will likely be very upset. If the Falcons are for real, they must take advantage of Dallas' troubles and win the road game. So the expectation is the Falcons will win. If Romo and Bryant were playing, they'd likely have little chance. But with them out, the Falcons do have a better chance.

Many thanks to Bill Shanks for his time, follow him on Twitter @BillShanks.


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