EAGAN, Minn. – Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is no stranger to a Mike Zimmer-led defense, and he's anticipating to feel the heat on Sunday.
Ryan, who will be making his 175th regular-season start for Atlanta and has not missed a game since 2009, mentioned physicality as a calling card of Zimmer's defenses, whether as a coordinator or in the head coach role, which he assumed in Minnesota in 2014.
"Defensive line, second level, secondary, they all play physical. They're solid tacklers," Ryan told Atlanta area media members on Wednesday. "They do a nice job within their pressure package; they give you a bunch of different looks, stress your protections … and they attempt to make you uncomfortable.
"When you go against a defense of his, I've played against them a number of times, both here and in Cincinnati, and you know you have to play tough against them," Ryan added.
He explained that the Vikings bring pressure "from anywhere" and that Zimmer trusts so many of his players in various rush schemes.
"They'll bring it with safeties, with linebackers, they'll get home with just four rushing," Ryan said. "They do a nice job of putting guys in different spots and allowing them to be successful."
Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn also spoke extensively about preparing to face the Vikings at noon this Sunday when Minnesota hosts the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium.
During a conference call with Twin Cities media members, Quinn said that he's respected Zimmer over the years.
"He's just got a good defensive background, a tough approach to him that I've always liked, and I just thought wherever he's been that the guys have been rock-solid, played really well, had good chemistry," Quinn said. "I've just appreciated his approach through the years."
Quinn was asked during his press conference in Atlanta specifically about Vikings defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. In the teams' previous meeting in 2017, the Vikings did not sack Ryan but did contain the veteran quarterback, limiting him to 16-of-29 passing for just 173 yards.
Quinn highlighted Hunter and Griffen's "ability to really jump off the ball" at the line of scrimmage. While the two are different-style players, he pointed out, they both execute extremely well.
"One is a little longer, and one maybe has more power to go into bull rushes," Quinn said of Hunter and Griffen, respectively. "But both are really accomplished. So both defensive ends, both teams, there's going to be some guys flying off the edges on both sides."
He added: "They've definitely earned our respect through the years."
While much of the conversation in Atlanta this week revolved around Minnesota's defense, the Falcons head coach also was asked about the Vikings offensive weapons.
Quinn spoke highly of receiving duo Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, as well as third-year running back Dalvin Cook, and drew a couple of comparisons between the Vikings players and his own.
"One of the things I've been impressed with for a long time with Thielen, just his ability to track a deep ball," Quinn said. "He can run full speed and then, at the last second, throw hands up. And Diggs, on the intermediate cuts, him and Calvin [Ridley] have a lot of similarities – guys who can really burst after the catch and accelerate. Anybody [who can get] their hands on the ball and then get even faster? That's a problem, for sure."
A healthy Dalvin Cook can be a dangerous Dalvin Cook to opposing defenses, which Quinn knows full well.
Interestingly, Cook attended the same Miami high school – and college (Florida State) – as Falcons Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman. The two are three years apart, but Quinn sees plenty of similarities between the two backs that extend past their alma maters.
He pointed out that both can be incredibly tricky to take down.
"All of a sudden, you think you have the right leverage on somebody, and then they put their foot in the ground and violently explode into another direction, which is what Free' does. Both of them are difficult to tackle, especially when they get to the next level," Quinn said. "In-line, it's one thing, and then all of a sudden you see these guys break out, and here's a safety or a linebacker with space, they go right after them and then can break them off."
He later added that the Miami natives are "multipliers" and can pose a threat on multiple levels.
"It's not just in the run game, but it's catching passes out of the backfield or when they line out in an empty formation," Quinn said. "The energy that both players bring to their teams, I think, is something that may not show up on the stat sheet, but you feel it. It's tangible."