The Falcons’ secondary will face two 6-foot-5 receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on Sunday as the Falcons open their regular season with a division game against the Buccaneers.
The size of the Buccaneers’ receivers could pose a threat to cornerback Robert Alford and free safety Ricardo Allen —both under 6-feet tall, but Alford and Allen insist the Falcons they’re ready.
“I mean for us, it’s just trusting the technique that coach M (Marquand Manuel) taught us,” Alford said. “We’ve been going through this the whole training camp. We’ve been facing big receivers like Julio (Jones) and Mohamed (Sanu) the whole training camp so we’re definitely prepared for it and all we have to do is go out there and trust the technique.”
Jones stands at 6-foot-3 and Sanu at 6-foot-2.
From what Alford’s seen in preseason and in practice from his teammates, the Falcons have made strides since they last saw the Buccaneers.
“Last year was our first time in the system, this year is our second year in the system so everybody know the playbook,” Alford said. “There’s not going to be too much thinking out there. It’s just going to be showing your ability and playing fast as a team.”
Last season, Alford racked up 15 pass deflections and 53 total tackles in addition to a 59-yard defensive touchdown. Alford's touchdown beat the Redskins in overtime in October.
Alford and Allen accounted for five of the Falcons 17 team interceptions last season.
Coach Dan Quinn also has confidence in, not just his secondary, but his entire defense to go up against the entire Buccaneers’ offense on Sunday.
“We think they’ve got a terrific group and guys that have been proved (to be) very good competitors who’ve played outside and they’ve move them around too, they’re not just going to stay at one stationary spot,” Quinn said. “That’s a challenge in itself too. We’ll do a number of things defensively to make sure we’re at our best on third-down and the different down and distances that we feature different ways to play. So it’s still going to come back to our run and hit factor and the energy we play with and that’s what we’re counting on first.”
In addition to Evans and Jackson, the Falcons’ defense will also face quarterback Jameis Winston on Sunday.
After going against Winston twice in his rookie season season, Allen is more confident in facing Winston this year because the Falcons have resources to study Winston on a professional level.
“He didn’t have very much tape (in 2015),” Allen said. “Just to have a whole year of him now and see if they actually correlate to this year, it’s actually good because you can see if you start to pick up stuff and see what he’s seeing and see how he starts to read defenses and stuff like that.”