Falcons DT Dontari Poe vs. Bears C Cody Whitehair and LG Kyle Long: Poe was signed in free agency to a one-year, $8 million contract and asked to lose some weight. He met the Falcons’ demands and collected some incentive bonus money along the way. The disruptive tackle is at 330 pounds after playing much of his career listed at 346. Whitehair and Long, who has an ankle injury, will have their hands full on double-team blocks on Poe. Whitehair was drafted as a guard, but was moved to center a week before the start of last season and made the PFWA’s all-rookie team.
Falcons LT Jake Matthews vs. Bears OLB Leonard Floyd: Matthews is striving to become more consistent and elevate his play. Floyd had seven sacks in 12 games and comes off the edge with speed and power. “Leonard has had a tremendous offseason,” Bears coach John Fox said. “I thought he had a good rookie outing, but he did get some minor injuries. He’s gotten physically stronger and more durable. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him this offseason. So, we are looking for big things from him.”
Falcons MLB Deion Jones vs. Bears RB Jordan Howard: Jones is set to start his second season in the middle of the Falcons’ speedy defense. He has made big tackles in front of him and can chase plays from sideline to sideline. Howard, a fifth-round pick, had a spectacular rookie season. He rushed for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns last season. “He’s a downhill runner, has a dangerous jump-cut, and it goes back to competing,” defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “You watch a guy who has a negative run, and he gets right back up on second-and-11 and comes right back downhill as if it didn’t happen. It’s going to take more than one guy to tackle him.”