What sneaky threats do the Washington Commanders need to worry about during their game at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6?
The Atlanta Falcons are playing solid football not because of any star names, but largely because under-the-radar players are contributing. Players like quarterback Desmond Ridder, who still has his critics, but he's beginning to deliver in clutch moments.
Ridder's development ought to worry a Washington Commanders' defense underachieving on coordinator Jack Del Rio's watch. His unit also needs to factor in a running back who topped 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2022, while a tight end not named Kyle Pitts is surprisingly emerging as the quarterback's go-to target.
There are similar warning signs for Commanders' quarterback Sam Howell and Washington's offense. Howell needs to be aware of one veteran linebacker in pressure situations. The line in front of Howell not only needs to pick up the blitz but also control a big body at the heart of the Falcons' front seven.
Commanders must keep David Onyemata quiet
The Falcons swiping David Onyemata from NFC West rivals the New Orleans Saints went largely under the radar during free agency. But the defensive tackle is proving to be one of the bargains of the offseason.
Onyemata has joined outstanding holdover Grady Jarrett and another veteran recruit the Commanders should fear, Calais Campbell, to form a formidable front. This trio is holding opposing runners to a measly 3.8 yards per carry.
That number is bad news for Washington running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson, but Onyemata is also making an impact in another area. The 30-year-old has been in on 1.5 sacks, in addition to generating nine pressures, four quarterback knockdowns, and five hurries, per Pro Football Focus.
If the Commanders can't win in the trenches, the Falcons will put Sam Howell into too many obvious passing situations. Then he will be at the mercy of the sophisticated pressure schemes designed by defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who's making good use of one of Onyemata's former teammates.