The Falcons are looking to wipe away some bad memories after the Patriots came in and ripped the Birds pretty much from the opening kick. We all know its preseason and you simply can’t draw too much from the games that don’t count. How soon can fans forget that the Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason and then went on to finish with the worst record in the history of the National Football League at 0-16. The third game has developed into the “biggest and most important” game of the preseason where teams will treat it most like the real deal. Starters will see 30-35 snaps and actually will gameplan some to try and get the best possible look at their first units. Many of us had some bad mojo after the embarrassment that the Patriots put on, but its easy to forget that these games simply don’t count. More than anything, Coach Mike Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff deserve the benefit of the doubt and then some for accomplishing something that all the other coaching staffs and front offices couldn’t do since 1966. And that was including some serious adversity and a major injury-plagued year. Fans hope and expect not to see a repeat performance as they ready for the Dolphins, a team on the rise and also a franchise picked by media-heads as a dark horse much like the Falcons. Some questions to ponder as the “big” preseason game approaches:
The highly rated first round draft pick out of Missouri has immediately become a fan favorite in Atlanta and was a no-brainer when the Falcons pulled their draft card at #19. He’s had an excellent camp, at least according to all reports and very much looks to take a starting outside linebacker spot outright. He had a pretty good game in his first action against the lowly Chiefs, but had a typical rookie outing against the Patriots. He missed a couple of plays overall, but the one that sticks out the most is where he got torched for a red zone touchdown by Tom Brady and Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez. Although he didn’t have his head turned around, he was in perfect position. News also comes out that the Falcons didn’t hardly game-plan at all on defense. As pointed out by several Bird Cagers, most rookies are making their debuts against 2nd and 3rd team units. So, typical rookie struggles or a touch concerned?
The trade of Quinn Ojinnaka comes as somewhat of a surprise since he was quite possibly the most versatile offensive lineman the Falcons have had in a long time. He was able to play almost every single position on the line except for center, and may have actually worked there a tiny amount. After Thomas Dimitroff drafted guard Mike Johnson and center Joe Hawley, the writing was quickly on the wall for a couple previously safe O-Linemen. The starting five are obviously a lock (Baker, Blalock, McClure, Dahl, Clabo) and so too are Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley. The Falcons kept 9 total offensive linemen, so someone’s likely still to go. Garrett Reynolds was a TD draft pick, but Brett Romberg and Will Svitek were both Dimitroff free agent additions. Jose Valdez is reportedly having a good camp after a year on the practice squad. Who will be the NEXT odd man out on the OL?
The big-bodied rookie had a fantastic start to his career in Atlanta, but two consecutive knee injuries was thought to derail his career. He battled back several times and actually secured a spot on the roster last year while slowly working his way back into game speed. Many thought that Lewis would definitely be on the block when the Birds drafted DT Corey Peters and expected Peria Jerry to fully recover. The Falcons carried 9 defensive linemen last year with Jamaal Anderson working at both positions. Vance Walker show some great flashes as a 7th round draft pick and Thomas Johnson also looked good as a starter towards the end of the season. Lewis reportedly looked good, but was fighting an uphill battle with Corey Peters also having a good camp and Jerry’s progress on target. Lewis’ fate may have changed with Peters getting injured and Jonathan Babineaux serving a one-game suspension. Combine that with Lewis getting good reports from Coach Smith and the big man may have worked himself right back in the mix.
The third game is the “big” game of the preseason where the starters get their most snaps and its most similar to a real game situation. Both first units will be looking to gain a little bit of swagger back after a poor performance against the Patriots, and the first offense unit not scoring a touchdown yet. That being said, several players are on the bubble and could make some major strides in securing one of those coveted roster spots. It is true that the 4th game is one of the biggest for those last-minute battles, but if a player could put on a show in this all-important third game then they might could put some distance between themselves and their competition. The biggest battle is at receiver where Troy Bergeron could continue his push, Eric Weems could make some plays on special teams and wideout, and rookies Brandyn Harvey and Ryan Wolfe would have to have a big game to leapfrog the favorites. Running backs Antone Smith and Dmitri Nance have both had their ups and downs and it looks like the Falcons will keep only one. Does William Moore need to have a solid to good game to put the doubters to rest? Robert James, Spencer Adkins, and Bear Woods are all locked in to fight for one last LB spot. Tight ends Michael Palmer will continue pushing Keith Zinger for that last TE spot. Who’s the darkhorse that needs the biggest game to get a spot?
-Answer the questions du jour for the Falcons-Fins game.
-Standard rookie troubles for Spoon or a little worry?
-Who’s likely to go on the OL?
-How many DT’s will we keep and which ones?
-Did Trey Lewis work himself back in the fold?
-Which darkhorses need a big game to take a roster spot?