FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons strong safety Erik Coleman hopes to make a triumphant return to New York on Sunday, the place where he started his NFL career with the New York Jets.
Coleman, who's in his second season with the Falcons, is the leader of a secondary that will be severely tested against the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning.
In a conversation with the AJC, Coleman, discusses his role in helping to stop Manning and the Giants' running game and how he tries to keep his secondary mates together through some tough times.
Q: What are some of the things that Eli Manning does well?
A: He has a really strong arm. He can make every throw on the field. He's a very intelligent quarterback. He's great at reading coverages, so he knows where the ball should go.
Q: Is he the same after the foot injury?
A: Yes, he can throw and has been delivering the ball with a lot of pop. He's making tough throws on the outside of the field. He's doing a great job of managing the game for them.
Q: What do you all make of their Steve Smith and the rest of the receivers?
A: Those guys are very athletic and explosive guys. Steve Smith has a lot of good speed. He has great hands. They have [Hakeem] Nicks and [Domenik] Hixon. Those guys are very explosive, and they do a great job after the catch.
Q: What's your assessment of their run game with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw?
A: They have a very strong run game. They are a tough, physical team. They have a tough offensive line. We are going to have a pivotal role in stopping the run.
Q: Is this a bend-but-not-break defense?
A: At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to, keeping points off of the board. We are trying to get the ball back to our offense. That's what we are focusing on. We want to stop the run better and get off the field more often. We just have to keep grinding and keep doing what we are good at, and we'll be successful.
Q: What has defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's message been to you guys this week?
A: At this point of the season, each man has to be accountable for his actions. We have to play as a team. We have to trust one another. We have to pay attention to detail. We have to get those little things right.
Q: Do you all have a scouting report on Danny Ware?
A: I played with Danny Ware in New York. He's a very talented running back. He went to Georgia. Jacobs is doing a great job of running the ball. Bradshaw has been every effective. I think he's averaging 5 yards per carry. [He's] a very shifty running back. Their running game is going to be something that you're going to have to address no matter who is back there.
Q: Even with their struggles, are they one of the most balanced teams in the league?
A: They are very balanced. They do a great job of mixing up the run with the pass. Their offensive line has been doing a great job of creating lanes with the running backs. They are a good team. We'll have to be ready for the challenge.
Q: As the leader of the secondary, how do you keep the guys positive and pumped up, with some of them having tough times?
A: I think it's just the fact that, first you have to find out what happened. If a correction needs to be made, you get the correction and try to move. I think the guys on our defense are smart enough to know that they don't want to make the same mistakes twice. You just try to pick them up, keep them positive. Our guys here are in good spirits. They have confidence, so it's not too tough of a job.
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