After a very successful Friday Night Lights event at Brookwood High on Friday night, the Atlanta Falcons concluded their Allstate All-Access Weekend with the Roam the Dome event at the Georgia Dome. It was a great environment that allowed fans to come see the team up-close and get a feel for what it looks like from the “good” seats. It was a very family friendly affair that allowed the kids to run around and enjoy themselves, concessions were open, and there were on the field games and activities after the scrimmage. Autographs were also available for season ticket holders who requested the free tickets in time. There was a coin toss, singing of the national anthem, and the new Falcons cheerleaders debuted at halftime. The event had the feel of a spring practice game for those of you who have attended one. Everything wasn’t free however. Free parking was available in the orange lot, but that filled up pretty quickly and the rest had to pay to park. If you’re not into the long and technical play-by-play action, you can fast forward to the end and check out the overall, final impressions of the scrimmage.
1st Team Defense
The first quarter had the starting defense against the 2nd or 3rd team offense, not sure what it would be considered. Players that were noticeably absent from the first team DEF included no signs of Peria Jerry, Trey Lewis, or Curtis Lofton. The starters saw Abraham, Thomas Johnson, Babineaux, and I think Kroy Biermann may have started, but they rotated so much that you couldn’t really tell. Gilbert filled in for Lofton, Nicholas and Peterson as the outside backers, with DeCoud, Coleman, Grimes, and Houston rounding out the defensive secondary. Thomas Brown looked good, fast, and quick and looks to have completely recovered from his injury. DJ Shockley started the series and had nice, crisp passes and seemed to have a good command of the huddle and the offense. DJ had a good fade pass to Eric Weems to the outside and Weems made a nice over the head catch for a first down. Next play Abraham got in for a sack. Mike Peterson looked good and aggressive flying around the field. DJ scrambled around on the next play and threw a pass that was little high to TE Jason Rader, and Rader had a very un-athletic jump and missed the pass. Bad looking play. Defense in general looked ok and you certainly can’t gauge a lot without full pads, but the second team offense drove pretty well.
1st Team Offense
Expected starters on offense with Brian Finneran starting opposite Michael Jenkins being the only exception. Matt Ryan had a nice play action roll out and dump off pass to Brian Finneran for a 6 yard game. Turner power lead for a 2 yard gain, which of course we don’t know the true gain with no pads. Troy Bergeron (#11) got a lot of playing time on the first team offense working in the slot. 3rd and short give to Ovie Mughelli who bulled ahead for an easy first down. The next play was a mess. Give to Turner, who then handed it to Jenkins on a double reverse that was dropped for a pretty big loss. It was hard to get all the players who started on the second team defense, but I know I saw Tony Tiller(CB), Willie Evans(DE), Jamaal Fudge(S), Chris Owens(CB), Peria Jerry(DT), Robert James(OLB), Tywain Myles(DT), Vance Walker(DT), Eric Brock(S), Spencer Adkins(OLB-maybe?), Lawrence Sidbury(DE), and Antoine Harris(S). Ryan play action fake, 5 yard dump pass to Justin Peele. Ryan dropped straight back and had a nice thrown pass to Jenkins on a long curl route that was run very well. Misdirection lead to Michael Turner for a short gain. Drop back pass from Ryan to Norwood in the flats that looked good. Nice looking empty backfield set with Turner lining up wide, Jenkins and Finneran out wide with Gonzalez at TE, and Bergeron in the slot (I think?). As we all expected, Gonzalez really can stretch the field running a deep out or corner route, leaving Jenkins one-on-one with a beautiful slant for a touchdown.
2nd Team Offense
Biermann, Jason Jefferson, Thomas Johnson, and JA#98 starting on the D-Line. John Parker Wilson looked pretty good overall for a rookie playing against the first team defense, in my opinion. Nothing spectacular, but overall pretty good. JPW had a pass to Chandler William that was tipped and should’ve been picked by Tony Gilbert, but Williams looked it in to his credit. They drove down the field with Parker Wilson at the helm with not too many problems. No sign of Peria Jerry or Trey Lewis on the first team defense. Chevis Jackson was called for a pass interference in the end zone against Darren Mougey that would’ve put them on the 1 yard line.
Took a break from the action and came back to see the first team offense in the red zone. They had Gonzalez split out wide at one point, using a four wideout set with Jenkins, Finneran, and Bergeron in the slot. Next play was a thing of beauty, Gonzalez ran a deep out in the end zone with Jenkins(I think?) running a cross or slant take-off route leaving a beautifully thrown ball to Gonzalez who made a spectacular catch in the end zone for a touchdown over two defenders. Nice way to end the half.
Shockley directing the 2nd team offense and threw a pass that was a catchable ball, but Chris Houston committed a pass interference on Aaron Kelly in the end zone, who looked to have him beat. Seen that happen before. Shockley looked good (trying to be as objective as possible, but that was pretty obvious). Thomas Brown saw a lot of playing time throughout the entire game, never saw Jason Snelling once, maybe I missed him. Chevis Jackson seems to working in the slot again, with Grimes and Houston starting corners. Eric Weems came down with a nice over the head catch to stay in bounds and move the chains. In the red zone, DJ had to wait on Aaron Kelly running a deep out in the end zone. Kelly ran an ugly route and may could’ve been open. The offense had a four wide look and the defense brought serious pressure, but DJ picked up the blitz really well with a nicely thrown ball to Chandler Williams. There’s a gap here for some reason, maybe that had a turnover on downs, but the first team offense came in with Redman leading the team. Jerious Norwood got a lot of gives and looked good and fast. Nice pass and catch to Robert Ferguson, who looked pretty fast and caught everything thrown to him. Well thrown pass and catch by Troy Bergeron who fought off defenders to make a 15 yard gain. Fake handoff reverse to Ferguson who showed really good speed on the outside. Made it inside the red zone. Next play Redman was flushed out of the pocket and found Hartsock in the end zone for a touchdown, probably would’ve been a sack in a real game.
John Parker Wilson led the team down the field on the last drive, having some up and down moments as expected by a rookie QB. Nice pass to Keith Zinger (TE) down the middle of the field and dropped it, confirming the knock on him last year. JPW led the team down the field again towards the end zone. One of the last plays saw Parker Wilson looking for a receiver and Brent Grimes made an unbelievable play to make the interception and killed the drive that ended the scrimmage.
Overall it was a great experience as a Falcon fan to get up close and see what our team looks like. It was a chance to bring the entire family and quench a little bit of our football appetite before the real deal starts in about a month. Kudos to the Atlanta Falcons organization for giving the fans a chance to see the team, all for free.
Even though I had my doubts, Brent Grimes looks to be quickly locking up the open cornerback job opposite Chris Houston. The guy just makes plays that he shouldn’t be making with his frame. We’ll wait until the preseason games, but if its anything like his current work, he’ll be starting.
DJ Shockley looked good in action. He had a good command of the offense and the huddle. He picked up the blitzes well and showed his nice mobility, arm strength, and improved accuracy. In my opinion, John Parker Wilson looked pretty good as a rookie QB facing a 1st team defense. He certainly showed he can handle 3rd backup duty and be a project for the future. Chris Redman earns over 4 million a year as a backup, so this is definitely a battle to watch.
The offense looked good, crisp, and in tune even without Roddy White. Obviously you can only glean so much with no pads, but the passing game looked good. Matt Ryan made good decisions and threw the ball really well. The injury of Harry Douglas and Roddy White’s holdout has seemed to create a good chemistry with Ryan and Michael Jenkins. They were running against the second team defense, so take from it what you will.
Again, playing defense in only helmets will only tell so much, but as a whole the defense certainly looked shaky. Shockley looked really good against the defense and even John Parker Wilson had his moments. Pass rush seemed non-existent. DeCoud and Coleman look to be forming a good chemistry in the D-backfield, but the secondary got dinked and dunked down the field. Let’s hope it was due to wearing no pads.
Jason Snelling may have been injuried, but Thomas Brown appeared quick and fast in the time he saw on the field. Brown had good cuts, some solid runs, and caught the ball well out of the backfield against the first team defense. Good chance that the Falcons carry Brown AND Snelling, but Brown took advantage of the time he received.
Missing in action again were the usual suspects, Trey Lewis and Peria Jerry. Jerry may have seen some work on the second team defense, but not on the first. Thomas Johnson and Jason Jefferson split time as the other defensive tackle beside Babineaux. It may be overblown, but how could our first round draft pick not beat out Johnson or Jefferson. The LB corps looked athletic with Peterson and Nicholas, but still missing Lofton who has a hamstring issue, which is certainly troublesome.
The wide receiver battle is intense and will require some hard decisions very soon. Looks like the veterans have the inside track at the roster spots. Aaron Kelly obviously has talent, but his routes didn’t look crisp as would be expected. Darren Mougey has great size and speed, but can’t seem to get open. Eric Weems made several nice catches and showed why he was moved up to the active roster last year. Chandler Williams also had some nice catch and runs as well. Troy Bergeron had the best day in my opinion, running good routes, making nice catches, and playing well in the slot. Bergeron saw a lot of action on the first team offense and made the most of it. Robert Ferguson showed flashes as well making good catches as showing surprising speed. Marty Booker wasn’t active, but with the signing of Roddy White the field looks to be stocked again and the competition will be fierce. There looks to be some tough decisions on the horizon concerning the backup wideout spots. They may now want to carry six WR’s.
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