The numbers weren’t nearly as good as they were against the Eagles, but James Starks’ performance on Saturday night in Atlanta was still very encouraging. Playing against a much bigger and much better defense that actually knew who he was and had an entire week to prepare for him, the talented rookie from Buffalo rushed for 42 hard-earned yards on 14 carries while the outcome of the game was still somewhat in question. He also handled his duties in pass protection without incident.
Green Bay’s offensive line pushed Philadelphia around in the Wild Card game, but that wasn’t the case against the Falcons. Atlanta’s front four more than held its own at the point of attack. That’s why Starks’ effort was so promising. He often made something out of absolutely nothing – the No. 1 trait of any good back. He ran hard, and at 6’2, he was able to make himself small when necessary. He also showed some wiggle and a neat little hesitation move that nobody had seen in his previous four games.
Some quick thoughts:
-Few players have improved as much this season as C.J. Wilson. The rookie defensive end seemingly played his way onto the practice squad in August, but general manager Ted Thompson surprisingly decided to retain him on the 53-man roster. At the time, it appeared to be a matter of simply keeping a young player with some talent away from other teams. But that hasn’t proven to be the case. The former East Carolina star has gotten better every week and is now a key part of the defensive line rotation. How key? Wilson started at right end against the Falcons in coordinator Dom Capers’ 4-4-3 package.
-There’s no question that Donald Driver has lost a step a two, but rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Finally over a nagging calf injury that hampered him for most of November and December, the 36-year-old has caught 16 balls for 173 yards in the past three must-win games. He’s also firmly reestablished himself as an integral part of the passing game. Driver might be supplanted as the No. 2 receiver next season, but it doesn’t look as if he’ll be supplanted on the roster any time soon.
-An injury to a starter is rarely a positive thing, but it has been in the case of Atari Bigby. For some reason, the coaches were determined to get the six-year veteran on the field immediately after he was activated from the physically unable to perform list in early November. A pair of leg injuries scuttled those plans, and that’s been a positive. Journeyman Charlie Peprah is the better safety. The former Alabama star may lack ideal size and speed, but he’s an extremely cerebral player who fits nicely in this defense.