Only a Preseason Game, but…..
Ok, ok we all know that it’s just a preseason game, but the overall defensive was pretty atrocious across the board, except for a few solid performances by a couple of individual players. Although it was the second and third team defense gave up the points that led to the Lions trumping our Falcons, our first team defense looked sub-par at best and terrible at worst. All the worries Falcons fans had going into the season have been exacerbated and increased in one preseason game. The defensive line push was pretty anemic, our linebackers looked a touch slow and disoriented, and our defensive backfield allowed quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper, rookie Matthew Stafford, and Drew Stanton to methodically march down the field mostly at will. Another fact that added to the misery had to do with who the Lions had, or didn’t have, lining up last Saturday. Arguably their best player, Calvin Johnson, didn’t suit up, Culpepper hasn’t been in top form 2004, and they trotted a great number of rookies such as Aaron Brown and Derrick Williams, who looked like all-stars. That’s not even including the detail that Kerry Colbert had stone hands and dropped at least three passes that would’ve been solid gains.
Many Subs and Coaches Get Some Tape
It certainly was only one game and it doesn’t count in the long run. Coaches were looking to see how players would react in given situations and get live tape on them in order to make their appropriate judgments and critiques of the players. The defensive side of the ball saw tons of subs in the game and getting everyone in live game situational play. Remember, the Steelers didn’t win one single preseason game and went on to have the best record in the NFL, home-field advantage for the playoffs, and won the Super Bowl. The only issue is that our Falcons are a long, long ways away from the Steelers in the process, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. A look at positions:
Although, the Falcons return 3 out of starters on the defensive line, there are questions marks all across the line including who will replace Big Grady’s large presence, depth issues, and the marked target on Jamaal Anderson’s position. Abraham had some good pressures, which ended up being some of the only good pushes on the first team defense. Fans know what Abraham can do, so there was no need for him to dominate. Babineaux had a solid but not great game, and the fans also know what he’s capable of next the Abraham on the left side. The announcers said that Peria Jerry was starting, but Thomas Johnson seemed to be in on most of the Lions first drive. Jerry was double-teamed much of the night and seemed to struggle many times throughout the night. Trey Lewis looked good in the small amount of action he saw, in particular showing great hustle and quickness tracking a running back all the way down the line across the other side of the field to make a solid tackle. Vance Walker and Jason Jefferson seemed to have a pretty average game, but nothing fantastic. The play of the night came when Thomas Johnson surged through the line on 3rd and short deep in the red zone to hold the Lions to a field goal. Johnson is going a long way on locking up a roster spot, whether we keep 4 or 5 defensive tackles on the roster. Culpepper, rookie Stafford, and Stanton had plenty of time to throw the ball around and drive down the field at will. What was your impression of the defensive tackles? Thomas Johnson a lock for a roster spot? Peria Jerry’s lack of performance concerning?
Jamaal Anderson certainly didn’t alleviate the fears and anxiety that many Falcons hold for him. Anderson looked a bit slow and seemed to lack the fire and edge that it takes to be a successful, head-hunting defensive end in the NFL. Anderson continued his reputation of always being a step or half-step behind on getting a sack or good pressure. Anderson didn’t seem to possess the fire of simply bull-rushing opposing tackles and using his natural skill set. One particular instance saw Anderson do a hop-skip and try to jump around an offensive lineman, when he could have easily run through the player, or at least tried. Chauncey Davis didn’t seem to do a whole lot better, but he didn’t get drafted number eight overall either. Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury seemed to get pretty decent penetration in limited time they saw on the field. Overall, the defensive line got no pass rush, continuing an issue the Falcons had a lot of problems with last year. Who would you rate the defensive ends in the game against the Lions? Is Anderson pushing your patience?
The linebacker were one of the bad spots on the field on Saturday. Mike Peterson looked particularly bad when he had a good read on a rushing Daunte Culpepper, but was burnt to the sidelines by the QB, who’s not exactly a spring chicken. Curtis Lofton looked lost at times, probably due to his missed practice time. Stephen Nicholas had some bright moments, but also had a few plays that resulted in poor reads at times. Coy Wire seemed to have a good night, getting good pressure on a few blitzes, but didn’t look particularly great in pass drops. Tony Gilbert of course stole the show with his beautiful interception return for a touchdown. Gilbert showed great reading ability and turned on the burners to get into the end zone. It will be shocking to see Gilbert not get a roster spot. Robert James didn’t impress too much and looking really bad on one play when rookie RB Aaron Brown juked him out of his ankles and made him look silly. Spencer Adkins didn’t stand out. Is Peterson the right fit at OLB, or is he past his prime? Should Gilbert get a chance at OLB?
Chris Houston of course got hurt, which is never good for a preseason game. Fans will certainly monitor his health very closely as training camp progresses. Brent Grimes had a good night making several plays throughout the game that his size wouldn’t necessarily dictate. If he has the inside track for the starting spot, his performance continued his ascent. Chevis Jackson had an overall solid, but not great night. Chris Owens showed a ton of ability in his first preseason game as a rookie making several nice plays, and showing a great intensity and fierce style in run support. Owens should earn a lot of playing time this year based on first impressions. Tony Tiller and Glen Sharpe didn’t make the necessary plays to climb the steep mountain of earning a spot, at least not yet. Von Hutchins also had a pretty average performance as well. The defensive combo of DeCoud and Coleman showed a good chemistry, but looks to take some time to work out the kinks. Antoine Harris had a good night on special teams, but had a pretty horrid night at safety. The worst of the night came with Eric Brock, who had the unfortunate situation of getting burnt several times by rookie Aaron Brown, making him look like the next Barry Sanders running and catching. Culpepper, Stafford, and Stanton picked the secondary apart with seeming ease throughout the game. Based on your first impression, will Owens start at some point this year? Grimes a lock to start? Does the secondary overall concern you?
So it was just a preseason game, and in the long run it doesn’t mean anything, but the overall defensive performance looked pretty bad, from the first team defense all the way through the 3rd team subs. Chris Owens showed us what Thomas Dimitroff saw when he took him in the third round, Tony Gilbert had a great performance, and Thomas Johnson had a fantastic game to continue his drive towards a roster spot. Jamaal Anderson’s seat got much hotter, Peterson needs to shake off the rust, the safeties got some work to do, and our first round draft pick needs to pick it up.
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