5 things to look for from the starters vs. Dolphins

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons middle linebacker Akeem Dent will return to the lineup for the team’s important third exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sun Life Stadium.

Dent suffered a concussion in the exhibition opener against the Ravens while playing on the punt coverage team. He was in the league’s concussion protocol program and did not play in the second game against the Bengals.

072712 falcons CC30

Third-round pick Lamar Holmes (76) is set to make his debut against the Dolphins. (Curtis Compton/Ccompton@ajc.com)

The second-year linebacker from Georgia and Douglass High missed some valuable time as he attempts to replace Curtis Lofton, the team’s leading tackler last season who left to join the New Orleans Saints during free agency.

Here are five things to look for when the starters play into the third quarter against the Dolphins.

1. Offensive line rotation: With backup left tackle Will Svitek lost for the season to an upper right arm injury, it has become imperative for the Falcons find out if rookie left tackle Lamar Holmes can help this season. He missed all of the offseason and parts of training camp while coming back from a broken toe.

He’s been working diligently with offensive line coach Pat Hill and will make his debut.

The Falcons’ coaching staff has made some unconventional moves under head coach Mike Smith by starting rookies like quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker and Lofton in 2008. The next season they started rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry. In 2010, they started linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones was in the starting lineup to open last season.

Running backs Michael Turner, left, and Jason Snelling share a laugh between offensive plays in Flowery Branch on Friday. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Running backs Michael Turner, left, and Jason Snelling share a laugh between offensive plays in Flowery Branch on Friday. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

While it’s unlikely that Holmes can storm off the injury list and into the starting lineup, the Falcons plan to give him his shot in the “open competition” along the line.

2. Unleash the run game. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter doesn’t want to overwork his running backs in the exhibition season, but they would like to see some signs of life in the rushing attack.

They will try to unleash Michael Turner, who has just 14 yards on eight carries in the two exhibition games.

Overall, the Falcons have rushed 21 times for 71 yards against the Ravens and 18 times for 81 yards against the Bengals.

“This is the game that everybody wants to look their sharpest,” Turner said. “We are going into the third game and we have to make sure that we clean some things up before we go into Kansas City.”

3. Can Peria Jerry keep it going? One of the storylines of the exhibition season has been the solid play of former first-round pick Peria Jerry. He had three tackles and a tackle for a loss against the Ravens. Against Cincinnati, he had two tackles and one sack.

With Corey Peters out indefinitely, Jerry must continue to be productive. The Falcons should be fine while Peters recovers because behind Jerry, Vance Walker is playing well and rookie draft pick Travian Robertson has been a pleasant surprise.

4. Tighten up the pass defense. The secondary should dominate rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Miami’s weak receiving corps.

081612 ATLANTA: Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry puts pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Thursday, August 16, 2012.      CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

081612 ATLANTA: Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry puts pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Thursday, August 16, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Miami wide receiver Roberto Wallace is called “ankle weights Wallace” by the coaches because they can’t figure out why the swift player can’t separate from defenders. Their rationale is that he must be running with some sort of invisible ankle weights.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan was dubbed “7-Eleven” by Miami running back Reggie Bush on HBO’s Hard Knocks because he’s open all the time in practice.

Falcons cornerbacks Brent Grimes ($10.281 million), Dunta Robinson ($6 million) and Asante Samuel ($2.875 million) have a combined cap number of $19.156 million and are being paid to improve the pass defense.

5. Linebackers will get tested against Reggie Bush. In addition to Dent in the middle on running downs, outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas will get tested in pass coverage by Bush, the former New Orleans Saint.

Weatherspoon must atone for a missed tackle in coverage against Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Nicholas appears fully recovered from his toe surgery and is running well.

THE LATEST NEWS

Should the Falcons trade with Jax/London Jags for MJD?

Falcons third-round pick Lamar Holmes set to make his debut vs. Dolphins

Coordinators hand out their exhibition mid-term reports; backups need to step it up

Running back Michael Turner still a weapon

Falcons thin at left tackle after Will Svitek goes down; out for season

Falcons finally get fiesty in practice; a couple of fights breakout

Akeem Dent returns to practice; will play against Miami

OTHER NEWS

Dominique Davis in hunt for No. 2 quarterback position

GAME STORY: Bengals 24, Falcons 19

SIDEBAR: Matt Ryan won’t call himself an elte QB after completed 18 of 21

Asante Samuel admits to relaxing on A.J. Green’s touchdown catch

A.J. Green and Julio Jones shine in exhibition game

VIDEO: Matt Ryan, Lousaka Polite featured after loss to Bengals

VIDEO: Post game presser with head coach Mike Smith

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56 comments Add your comment

FalconsFan284

August 23rd, 2012
11:04 am

I expect the Falcons to come out strong and score early. The Dolphins have not shown they have put it together as an organization lately and aren’t contenders. The Falcons need to show some toughness and tenacity in this game. I’ll be watching what Turner does.

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

John Kimble

August 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

“One of the storylines of the exhibition season has been the solid play of former first-round pick Peria Jerry. ”

Something I never thought I would read, but that is some good news.

SirReal

August 23rd, 2012
11:33 am

I’d like to see Turner gain at least 20-30 yards in this game. Hopefully Jerry can continue production he’s been giving. Here are MY five things D Led:
1) Baker not getting beat
2) Baker not getting beat
3) Samuel not getting beat
4) The Defense WRAPPING UP!!!!!!
5) First team offense FINISHING drives with TDs!!!

If we can do those things, we’ll be primed for KC. I’m ready to see the season take flight.

Sam

August 23rd, 2012
11:36 am

John Abraham and Ray Edwards are going to get the most attention on our defensive front, but the most unsung player is Babineaux. He shows up to play every game – unlike some other guys on the team (aforementioned?). Babineaux is a hustler who seems to be in the right place at the right time when he needs to be. He definitely gets more penetration into the backfield than any other DT the Falcons have had in quite awhile. While other more flashy guys are everyone’s favorite, I’d have to say Babineaux is mine (even if I continually butcher the spelling of his name)

SirReal

August 23rd, 2012
11:59 am

Sam, I agree. Babs (and you spelled it right) has been Mr. Consistency for a long time.

Michael M.

August 23rd, 2012
12:00 pm

Just Win the darn game please !………………………………………………

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

Jim

August 23rd, 2012
12:14 pm

Just so we don`t make the Miami qbs look like thescond coming of Joe Montana and John Elwat!!!

Ivan

August 23rd, 2012
12:43 pm

“Just Win the darn game please !…”

Please Coach Smith. Do everything necessary to win this preseason game. Forget evaluating draft picks and free agents. Forget the schemes the players need to run to adjust to the new coordinators. Please. Go all out and win this game at all costs.

Because at the end of the year, everyone will know the Falcons brought their “A” game at the third preseason exhibition.

Ken Strickland

August 23rd, 2012
1:00 pm

GREETING CAGERS-Hopefully, I’ll finally get a chance to see an exhibition gm as I’ll be in the ATL Friday.

SEMINOLE WARRIOR-I’m bringing my Mother back to the ATL for the last 3 wks of her rehab. I certainly hope the gm will be televised Friday. I think decisions on our OL will be made after this gm. Our OC and RG decisions will be made before our final preseason gm so we can get some continuity going before the season starts. That’s why this gm is so important.

Keep in mind, with the exception of RT TClabo, LT SBaker and LG JBlalock, the season opening starters at LT, OC, and RG won’t necessarily be the same starters after our bye week.

Seen This B4

August 23rd, 2012
1:01 pm

LOL! So, the implication is that if the falcan’ts lose, it’s cause they didn’t bring their “A” game! LOL!

They have the league longest losing streak in the preseason, and it’s cause they didn’t bring their “A” game!

FBGuy

August 23rd, 2012
2:21 pm

Win, lose, who really cares or should care??? If the Falcons can get production from the key guys and a rookie or two for a half, there will be reasons to smile. The final score is not important. Repeat, who wins does not matter. HOW you win (or lose) does matter a lot.

Pee Wee

August 23rd, 2012
2:50 pm

Pre-season means NOTHING! A few years ago the Lions went 4-0 in the pre-season and 0-16 in the regular season. The year before that, the Patriots were 2-2 in pre-season and 16-0 in regular season. And the Colts were 1-3 pre-season yet won the Superbowl. So who cares how many pre-season games the Falcons lose…They do not count for anything!

This Gets Old

August 23rd, 2012
3:20 pm

“unconventional moves under head coach Mike Smith by starting rookies like quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker and Lofton in 2008. The next season they started rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry. In 2010, they started linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and wide receiver Julio Jones was in the starting lineup to open last season.”

What is unconventional about starting number one draft choices? Especially when you traded four picks to move up to the sixth position to draft Julio? Wouldn’t it be unconventional to NOT start him?

Me Too

August 23rd, 2012
4:02 pm

Please, please no SMITTYBALL!

Th

August 23rd, 2012
6:06 pm

I will be curious to see if Ray Edwards finally plays better than Kroy Biermann. Hasn’t so far. Obviously the coaches don’t think so either considering their playing time.

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

Another Rick

August 23rd, 2012
8:32 pm

Poor seen you attacking Pre Season now? Lol! I could care less if they lose 40 in a row in preseason! What counts is that we look good and you know it! Season around the corner and the Shaints are on the hit list cha cha!

Talk Real

August 23rd, 2012
10:09 pm

I need to see the coordinators coach a good game with a limited playbook in this third preseason game. I want to know we got good coaches and next motivated players. I want to see a better running game and a more diverse passing attack. Roddy white and Harry douglas are on the team too. We cant wait for them to double julio for them to pass to someone else because that wont work against the top dogs in the league, we’ll throw pics all day. Its called baiting the quarterback coaches. I need to see quizz become who we want him to be/ mjd with a mix of sproles and foster. And if dent doesnt read the play and hit someone my tomb stone will read atlanta falcon fan.

Ivan

August 23rd, 2012
10:59 pm

Even Seen can’t “see” sarcasm. This guy’s a riot.

Falcon James

August 24th, 2012
12:30 am

I hope we see a good run game.

Curtis Lofton

August 24th, 2012
1:49 am

Kinda embarrassed right now Atl. That vicious stiff arm Justin Blackmon put on me was ugly. Also I sprained my ankle trying to get to the last flapjack at a Shoney’s all you can eat breakfast. I love Shoney’s. I’m so hungry right now. #WhoAints #Food

Curtis Lofton

August 24th, 2012
1:50 am

Biscuits and syrup!!!!!!!!

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

[...] Falcons take on Dolphins tonight [...]

Mo

August 24th, 2012
6:50 am

It’s Preseason Football….

Jimmy Crack

August 24th, 2012
8:11 am

1) Stay healthy.
2) Don’t get hurt.
3) No injuries.

jc_dawgs

August 24th, 2012
8:16 am

Chris Redman = 0 TD passes since 3rd exhibition game in 2010. Diminique = 1 TD pass this season. If Davis can throw another TD pass tonight….it would be very hard to argue against him making the team.

Mikey

August 24th, 2012
8:40 am

I’m anxious to see Lamar Holmes in action and I would certainly like to see D. Davis work with an offense around him and a stronger defense playing against him… might be very interesting. I would like to see some dominance across the board tonight but the final score is of no interest to me in a practice game as long as the practice is benificial in training and making final roster decisions. I appreciate the opportunity to observe these practices. It is SO nice to see football again! GO FALCONS!

shhh_peaceful

August 24th, 2012
9:13 am

amongst other things i would really like see dom davis before the last five minutes in the 4th quarter.
lets evaluate him rojohombre and jpw have had enough time proving there inadequacies.

Flak Bum

August 24th, 2012
9:30 am

Unleash Turner? Turner is unleashed, hell he’s in post season form already 3 carries for -3 yards. Prehistoric Slug indeed!

PlanB

August 24th, 2012
10:15 am

I don’t understand why we can’t know how bad Corey Peters injury is. It’s not like it’s going to hurt by other teams knowing because Jerry is playing well (thank goodness) and we would not be giving info that would hurt us. If we had to replace him with a scrub, it would make a difference but not this.

I hope, as many of you do, to see how Dom Davis would do with the 2nd string and maybe a few plays with the 1st. It might be a little different but I think with time this guy is going to be the real thing. I’m betting the 1st & 2nd string WR’s would have some drops as did the 4th due to the velosity on his throws. Remember it took our guys awhile to get used to Vick’s throws. I hope MS doesn’t hide this guy. I think he will someday take MR’s job. He’s the most impressive new player in this years camp imo.

JSS

August 24th, 2012
10:22 am

Was it as embarrassing as whiffing on that “attempted” tackle by Gumby Fade Weatherspoon?

PlanB

August 24th, 2012
10:24 am

I typed a long speil (sp) and it got dumped. Short version.

Why can’t we know how bad Corey Peter’s injury is?

I want to see more of this years most impressive new player Dom Davis!!! Not 5 minutes.

I have to wait until Sunday to tape the game on NFL channel. Bummer!!

JSS

August 24th, 2012
10:31 am

“Foxborough South” never tells the truth about injuries… Plan B, Don’t hold your breath on that one… You won’t know that one till they hit KC week or announce the actives for the KC game…

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution lists five things to watch for out of the starters in Friday's game against Miami. Continued [...]

Shall we rise up

August 24th, 2012
12:48 pm

I am excited to see Holmes in action tonight against some starters from Miami. Can he hold up? I think so, so get your popcorn ready! Going to be good to see what Turner has in store for us tonight as well as Quizz! I think we all should get comfortable with what the passing game is going to do this year, get used to it! As for our D, I think you some a little more tonight from them as they will have a little game plan to attack that QB and put some pressure on him. This is going to give us a taste on what we will see this year from the Birds. We officially start the RISE UP tonight……….Birds of PREY are let loose tonight! Can you say RISE UP!?

Curtis Lofton

August 24th, 2012
1:11 pm

Far more embarrassing Lol. Look at the video for christ sake. He stiff armed me to the ground and my chest still hurts. My pride took a hit too. Glad I’m a saint though. The fans are so glad the Falcons don’t have me they don’t realize the Falcons did not want me. Can’t wait to get exposed in coverage on 3rd downs in the superdome. Can’t Wait!!!! Ooch!! My ankle hurts when I shout out loud. #Biscuits and syrup!!!!!! Me and Mark Ingram are gonna have a cornbread eating contest as soon as he gets back from rehab on his 3rd or 4th knee surgery. We lost count around here. I love Snicker bars!!!

explosive linebacker

August 24th, 2012
4:20 pm

Dent the Dolphins !!!

Rick

August 24th, 2012
4:51 pm

6. Wrapping up and tackling….last season and against the bengals the falcons missed too many tackles…..I’ll be looking to see if they get the guy to the ground after contact …….Nolan has to tighten it up!!

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]

5150 UOAD

August 24th, 2012
6:55 pm

5150 UOAD

August 24th, 2012
6:57 pm

I love my Chicken of the Sea with a lot of Doll Fins for flavor.

JSS

August 24th, 2012
7:40 pm

JSS

August 24th, 2012
7:42 pm

Dude, run it

JSS

August 24th, 2012
7:42 pm

JSS

August 24th, 2012
7:44 pm

Mr. Fraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-nks, no return…

[...] 5 things to look for from the starters vs. the Dolphins [...]