Take a look at what Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith, quarterback Marcus Mariota and others said throughout the week about the Bolts ahead of their Week 9 matchup:
Head Coach Arthur Smith
On the challenges that the Los Angeles Chargers present:
"Like I said earlier, Herbert, I don't know if there's a better quarterback – you talk about critical-down situations – he's a guy that can extend plays, live arm. He's going to be a challenge. We have to come up with a good plan and we have to play well in all three phases."
On what unique issues RB Austin Ekeler bring to the team:
"He's obviously one that Justin [Herbert] trusts him. They use him a lot of different ways, whether they get the ball to him on the screens or in traditional runs, but he's obviously got a very high comfort level with Austin out in the backfield. He's a damn good football player, you can see some of the similarities when Joe Lombardi uses him, it's kind of comparable to how [Alvin] Kamara is used in the passing game with New Orleans and he's a problem and we have to be aware of where he's at, at all times."
On getting more of a pass rush against Chargers QB Justin Herbert:
"You try every week, how you affect the quarterback, different obstacles, different schemes. Justin gets the ball out really fast; he's not taking a lot of sacks. Like I said, he's a really good football player, they lead the league in pass attempts per game so it's probably going to be really obvious what their gameplan is, their playing to the strengths of their team, Hebert, [Austin] Ekeler, the passing game. Every week there's a different challenge depending on who you are playing, doesn't mean they have to go out there and throw it 50 times. We understand that's a strength of them, obviously, they have a run game, and they have good players back there as well. Any way we can affect the quarterback, we're always looking for that edge."
On his thought about Chargers QB Justin Herbert coming out of college and his progression thus far in his career:
"Well, he was a really good player coming out of college. Where we were – that was the COVID draft in '20 with Joe [Burrow], Tua [Tagovailoa] and Justin, so, where we were picking that year, I mean you look at them. I was a coordinator at the time, but it wasn't like we were taking someone in that range right then. All of those guys went pretty high. You do look at them, I thought he was a good player coming out. Obviously, that class has been pretty special if you look at those three guys and the success that they've had. I don't remember there being a ton of hype on Justin but obviously, people thought highly of him because he went in the top 10. Sometimes you've got to understand what's real and what's not. He's a terrific player, lots of courage in the pocket, can change his arm angle, he's really accurate down the field, pretty complete quarterback. It'll be an interesting matchup right, I don't know the stat on this, you can look it up, when the last time two Oregon quarterbacks were going head-to-head as starters."
On the challenge of facing Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr.:
"Yeah, they've got him all over the place whether he's playing the deep part of the field, or he'll come down in the box at the line of scrimmage. He's a very instinctive player. You can feel him on the film. He's the heart and soul, it feels like, of that second and third level of that defense. Terrific player. He'll be all over the place. You have to account for him."
Check out the best photos of the Bolts Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Offensive Coordinator Dave Ragone
On what challenges the Chargers EDGE rushers present to the offense:
"Look, great players on defense, we can talk about Khalil [Mack], similar to the Aaron Donald's of the world, what else can I add that hasn't been said about him? When you talk about the rest of the defense though, here's what I will say, you've got a defense that does a great job pre-snap of applying pressure to the quarterback and the offensive line by giving different structures and different looks, by doing that to make the offense--kind of what the offense tries to do to the defense, we try to give you motions and different things pre-snap to get you to think. I think this is what Brandon [Staley] does a really good job of, he's been under the tutelage of a lot of some very good coaches, he's taken that and now he's done his own thing with it. Our work is cut out for us, you've got a secondary that reacts and sees the ball well, you've got linebackers who come downhill and they're going to add the physicality, and you've got a front who knows how to mix up the different structures. I've worked with a few of those guys, I know what they teach and I've got the utmost respect for those guys."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
On what Herbert does well and the challenge he poses opposing defenses:
"Well, he's accurate as heck. He's big. He's strong. He's hard to bring down. He doesn't get sacked very often. He doesn't take very many sacks. He's mobile. He's not necessarily a guy that's looking to run. He's not doing that. He wants to throw it. He wants to be a pocket passer, but he will run and he can get away from you. Like I said, he doesn't take very many sacks. I've seen him throw some completions while guys were draped all over him. He's very accurate. I think he's very smart. I think they have a great system that he fits in very, very well. I give them credit, too. They do things to help all quarterbacks, but he's an exceptional talent. He's one of those new young quarterbacks like [Josh] Allen and him that are coming along that are just the next Peyton Mannings and Bradys and those guys. They are. They're good. They're real good."
"He's a good player. To me, it's similar to [Alvin] Kamara. You've got a good player. The guy's a good running back and he's also a good receiver out of the backfield. Get him the ball. It's like when we, back in New England, had Kevin Faulk. Get him the ball in space and see what he can do. I don't think it's any rocket science. You have a good football player. Why would you pigeonhole him and just say he's a running back? This guy can do a lot of things well, so they're going to get him the ball along with the receivers, and the quarterback's good. It's always tough too trying to take care of a running back while you're trying to take care of receivers out there. So, sometimes they can get a pretty good matchup on a linebacker or whoever it might be. The guy is a really good football player and has been."
Special Teams Coordinator Marquice Williams
On Chargers K Dustin Hopkins and P JK Scott's strengths:
"I'll start with JK Scott, right-footed punter and he's a unique deal because he gets great hang time on his punts, I'm talking 5.5 [seconds], 5.4's and there's not a lot of opportunities for returns. When people do take chances, they get the bare minimum on returns. I believe that the Chargers have the No. 1 punt coverage team when it comes to yards per return. So, it's going to be a great challenge. He does get the ball outside of the numbers but that's the unique thing about him, he's long, he gets the ball up in the air, and allows his team to get downfield to force fair catches. Now, with Dustin Hopkins, I know he's been down, he had a great game versus Denver where he made the field goals and the game-winning field goal, we'll see what his status is. Whomever they put out there as the kicker, we have to do a great job of putting pressure on the kicker."
On Chargers WR DeAndre Carter:
"He's a dual returner, plays punt returner and kick returner, shifty, he's been on multiple teams, he's done a great job on multiple teams. I think he averages almost a first down on punt returns when it comes to each return that he has. So, he's getting their offense a first down which is great for their offense and the weapons that they have on offense. He's expanded his role on offense but he's dynamic with the ball in his hands and he's fearless when it comes to returning the ball. So, he will catch the ball in traffic, our gunners, and our punt interior, we have a great challenge this week versus him so we're excited about the opportunity, come Sunday."
Quarterback Marcus Mariota
On the Chargers defense and what players he feels are important:
"Whether it's Kenneth Murray, whether it's [Drue] Tranquill, the two inside backers that I think are playing really well, they're flying around. On the back end everyone's dealing with injuries right now, Mike Davis right now is playing pretty well, Asante Samuel's a great player that's got a nose for the football. We understand the pieces that they have, and we just got to go out there and try to execute."
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett
On the challenges the Chargers present:
"Starting off with Ekeler, he's a heck of a back. Run game, pass game, everything runs through him. They got one of the better quarterbacks in the league, young talent in Herbert back there, sling the ball. He can make any throw on the field. Good competitive offensive line. They got a heck of a team. On the defensive side, they have some playmakers, some stars out there too so it's a good complete team. We got to come out ready and make sure we got everything tight and execute."
Linebacker Mykal Walker
On keys of the Chargers offense:
"Yeah, this team, they pass the ball a ton. They're going to try and spread us out. We're anticipating that, we're anticipating kind of the same Cincinnati did to us. We got to try to be physical, make it an in the box game but when they start spreading us out, you know we gotta just makes sure that we stay with our physicality."
On Chargers WR Keenan Allen:
"Yeah, I mean he's an elite receiver. Anytime you have an elite receiver, obviously we got some things that we're going to do trying to contain him and stuff like that. But, we know what kind of game this is going to be so we're going to try to make it our game, try to make it physical. If they try to spread us out, we have to adapt."
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