It’s only preseason and its hard to gauge exactly how much stock to put into it, but sometimes it does hold some truth to what the regular season holds. The coaches are trying to get the starters ready to go and shake off the rust, but really they’re trying to build depth, determine the open starting positions, and decide who will make the 53 man roster and 8 man practice squad.
The starters looked good. The offense looked pretty darn good after a weak 3 and out to open the game. The first team defense looked really good minus DE Ray Edwards after holding them to a net 5 yards in the first three series with 2 picks. They were playing the Dolphins minus Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush and with Chad Henne as the QB. Still, they did what they were asked and give good hope for the future. The reserves, however, left a lot to be desired. Some final film reviews from the 1st preseason game:
Yes, its only preseason and take from it what you will, but if the first look at Julio Jones is any indication, the Falcons have added a serious playmaker on offense. Notice that you didn’t even see Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez get in on the mix. Jones had 3 catches for 55 yards and added 12 more on a reverse. Mike Mularkey and Matt Ryan were salivating about their new weapon, and he delivered. Its WAY early and the Dolphins aren’t the Steelers or Packers defense, but it finally appears that teams can’t simply double Roddy White and bracket Tony Gonzalez to shut down the Birds offense.
Yes, its only preseason and they squared off against Chad Henne and a Dolphins team without Brandon Marshall or newly acquired running back Reggie Bush, but the Falcons defense, minus Ray Edwards, did exactly what they were supposed to do. Three possessions and the Falcons D nabbed two interceptions, forced a punt, and held them to net five yards. Again, its only preseason, but the 1st defense looked pretty good.
The second year man out of Oklahoma had some dazzling punt returns and looked pretty good at nickel back, which you would have to say that he is leading the race to win the nickel back job, simply by default and Chris Owens just not looking up to par. If the Dimitroff decides to go with Franks or Owens, you’d have to think that Franks gets the nod. It’s looking more and more like Owens good starts as a rookie was the anomaly and the late season torch job was the standard.
Surely not trying to degrade anyone here, but it’s just really hard to figure out what they see in Antone Smith and Gartrell Johnson. It’s all great in wanting a feel-good, former practice squad to make the jump (Eric Weems), but they just don’t seem to have it. After a preseason, a regular season, and the start to another preseason, they offer nothing in terms of actual results on the field. It’s all good and well to have that sacred “potential,” but if you never show it, than it remains just that. Even though the “grass is always greener,” fans may think they let the wrong running back go in Dmitri Nance. Either that, or they should just roll with 6 wide receivers and only 4 running backs to keep Brandyn Harvey on the 53 man roster. It’s only the 5th RB spot, but still, they offer little. Could they at least get a burner in that 5 hole?
Yes, you’re talking about backups and mainly special teams players, but the Falcons backup secondary (including Chris Owens) looked atrocious against the Dolphins backups. Shann Schillinger, Rafael Priest, Chris Owens, and Rafael Bush among others looked downright awful. Perhaps it was just an issue of rust and missed assignments, but it’s looking more and more (hopefully) that TD will be getting on the phone when some of the cuts come down a la Brian Williams back in 2009. If not, we may be looking at more “Debacles in the Dome” courtesy of Manning, Vick, Brees (x 2), Freeman (x 2), Rodgers, Schaub, and Cutler.
Some fans are worried about letting Michael Jenkins go and what that would do to the wide receiver depth. If Friday night was any indication, assuming they stay healthy, this could turn out to be one of the best and most complementary receiving corps in recent memory. We know what Roddy can do and Julio blasted off in his debut, but the real strength was what the other receivers did. Harry Douglas, lined up on the outside looked like his old self with this TD catch and other receptions. Kerry Meier (1 for 18) and Eric Weems (3 for 26) both got involved in the offense as well. It was particularly nice to see HD, Weems, and Meier being used in the offense in hopefully what’s to come in the future. Perhaps Dominique Franks getting looks at punt returner means that Weems will be more featured in the offense.
Also, it was only two catches for 35 yards, but the Falcons have got to figure out a way to keep Brandyn Harvey on the 53 man roster. If they can get Harvey up to speed on special teams contributions, they must keep him over Antone Smith or Gartrell Johnson as the #5 back. Where Harvey has immense potential, speed, and size, Smith and Johnson haven’t proven either. The Packers wide receiving corps already had Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and then they went out and drafted Randall Cobb. The point is that they should do everything in their power to keep all 6, especially with HD and Meier’s injury history.
Looks like Chris Redman will be the #2 to Matt Ryan for a long, long while. After promising starts in preseason and showing good command in previous games, the talk of John Parker Wilson potentially moving up to take over the #2 QB spot behind Matt Ryan just took a major hit. His stats don’t bear out to be that terrible (12/19, 111, 1 Int), but he didn’t seem to have a really good grasp on the offense, throwing 1 interception and getting rocked for a fumble at the end of the half which led to a touchdown. Perhaps it was just rust, but he didn’t do much to make his case to replace Redman. At least he doesn’t have to worry about competition as the #3 the way rookie Adam Froman played.
The question was posed before the game on whether Sidbury’s spot on the team would be in jeopardy and if the 1st preseason game is any sign, he’s in trouble. Sidbury was close to sacks many times, but he came away with no tackles and no sacks. Meanwhile, rookie Cliff Matthews collared 3 tackles and got his first NFL sack (albeit preseason). Practice squad stalwart Emmanuel Stephens also chipped in with 4 total tackles and a sack of his own. The Falcons could elect to dump Chauncey Davis and his 3+ million salary, in which Sidbury would be safe, but more than likely it appears that Sidbury’s time may be running out.