Vivlamore reporting from the Georgia Dome.
Dominique Franks assumed the punt return duties in the Falcons first exhibition game Thursday and made a big impression.
Franks, a reserve cornerback, returned a first-quarter punt 45 yards to the Ravens’ 15-yard line before being pushed out of bounds by punter Sam Koch.
“It was a middle return and once I caught it I had seven or eight yards free,’ said Franks, who also credited the rest of the punt return unit. “It gave me a chance to get downhill, make a couple guys miss and bounce it back to the outside where the opening was. I’m sad that I got tackled by the punter. I didn’t want to do too much cutting back. I’m still trying to win a job.”
Tim Toone returned punts in the second half. Harry Douglas, who has also been working at punt returner during training camp, did not play in the exhibition with a rib injury.
Jacquizz Rodgers returned kickoffs in the first half and brother James Rodgers returned in the second half. The Falcons must replace returner Eric Weems, who left via free agency.
Competition at QB
Coach Mike Smith has said many times during training camp that there is open competition at several positions this season. He reiterated such comments Thursday in regards to the backup quarterback positions behind starter Matt Ryan.
Smith was asked following the game if the battle at quarterback was for the second spot or just the third spot.
“I think it’s wide open.” Smith said. “It will play itself out over the next three weeks. I don’t think anyone has an advantage over the other one. We are going to let these guys put a body of work out there and we are going to evaluate it at the end of the preseason.”
Chris Redman, the No. 2 last season, was 1-for-6 for eight yards. John Parker Wilson was 8-for-13 for 69 yards. Dominique Davis was 6-for-11 for 53 yards. All played with the second and third units.
The Falcons used a starting offensive line of Sam Baker (LT), Justin Blalock (LG), Todd McClure (C), Garrett Reynolds (RG) and Tyson Clabo (RT). It was the same first unit they have used during training camp.
On the Falcons’ fourth offensive series, Joe Hawley replaced the veteran McClure at center. The second unit, that entered in the second quarter, was Will Svitek, Andrew Jackson, Hawley, rookie Peter Konz and Mike Johnson. Konz later moved to center and was replaced by Phillip Manley.
The final offensive line used consisted of Bryce Harris, Manley, Tyler Horn, Konz and Jackson. Rookie Lamar Holmes, a third-round draft pick who missed much of the offseason with a broken toe, did not play.
In his four seasons, Smith has a good track record of challenging official rulings but he got one wrong Thursday.
Smith threw the red flag to challenge an incomplete pass to Drew Davis in the first quarter. Davis caught pass from Ryan but was ruled out of bounds. Video replay officials upheld the call.
“In hindsight, I would have loved to have kept that flag in my pocket,” Smith said. “We all made mistakes out there and that was one of mine.”