CHARLOTTE – The Atlanta Falcons have had an explosive start to the season, and that doesn’t just apply to their high-powered offense.
Atlanta’s defense has recorded a league-high seven interceptions to go along with a league-high four fumble recoveries, and the pressure created up front has helped lead to those turnovers.
“Their defensive line gets off the ball real well,” Panthers tackle Byron Bell said. “They are all penetrators. We have to move our feet to move with these guys. They’re quick. We have to get on these guys and run with them for four quarters.”
Added tackle Jordan Gross: “They play fast. They play well together.”
When asked to evaluate the Falcons’ defense, Gross pointed directly to the man he’ll often be tasked with blocking.
“The name that comes to mind is (defensive end) John Abraham,” Gross said. “He’s been doing great for years and years and he looks as good as ever.
“He’s a player who gets some credit but not as much as he deserves. He’s been a good pass-rusher for a while.”
So good in fact, Abraham is the NFL’s active sack leader with 114 over his 13-year career. That includes eight careers sacks against the Panthers.
“It’s a game I always look forward to,” Gross said of battling Abraham. “It’s definitely a good challenge.”
RETURNING OPTIONS: After rookie returner Joe Adams fumbled twice against the Giants – one on the opening kickoff of the second half and the another on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter – head coach Ron Rivera said the team is evaluating its options in the return game.
“We’ll see how things go as we go further into the week,” Rivera said. “We are looking at the possibilities.”
Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares – who served as the Panthers primary kick returner last season, and in the 2012 opener at Tampa Bay – could serve as a replacement, but Rivera stressed the team’s desire to give Adams an opportunity to showcase the rare game-changing ability he often displayed as an Arkansas Razorback.
“We’ve got a young guy that’s dynamic,” Rivera said. “(Joe) has had a lot of success and we want to take a good look.
“You’re trying to instill confidence, because he’s done it before and he’s had a lot of success. That’s why we brought him here. He is a dynamic return man, and you don’t want him to lose that confidence.”
Beason played with a sore shoulder in last week’s game against the Giants and he’s now suffering from a knee injury.
“Right now, the knee is really what concerns us,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He played with the shoulder (injury) and the knee is inflamed right now.”
Rivera was pleased with the progress shown by running back Jonathan Stewart (toe) and offensive tackle Byron Bell (ankle), who were both limited in practice.