First of all, let’s just repeat to ourselves several times: it’s only preseason, it’s only preseason, it’s only preseason. Right? It all depends on what you think of preseason games. Some believe it’s a good indicator of what’s to come, while others believe it’s just a glorified training camp practice. Perhaps its somewhere in the middle. Whatever your take, there were plenty of bright spots and just as many causes for concern. A look at some of both as the Falcons give a forgettable clunker to the Jaguars.
There’s not much more to add on this one. This has been a major problem since Coach Smith and DC Van Gorder took over in 2008. There have been up-ticks at times, and a few pockets of success, but overall it’s just been downright awful. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers or Blaine Gabbert and Matt Moore, there is an unbelievable inability of this coaching staff to figure out what is wrong and how in the world to get off the field on 3rd and long. It’s been said a million times before and the tidal wave of criticism will only grow larger and louder. Doesn’t matter who’s fault it is (Coach Smith or DC Van Gorder) and fans no longer care whatsoever. The fact is that the results are ridiculous. Players are in place so the mantra will remain the same: NO EXCUSES! And before the argument is thrown in about the backups being in, the smackdown came via the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Luke McCown, Jason Hill, Cecil Shorts, Deji Karim, Montell Owens, Dujuan Harris and Jarrett Dillard.
It’s only preseason, blah, blah, blah. Outside of the amazing pass, catch, and run by Harry Douglas, this offense reminded us of so many awful and anemic offensive clunkers that this coaching staff and players have known to give. Granted, there not too often, but the following names will ring a bell: Bucs ’08, Panthers ’08, Patriots ’09, Eagles ’09, Steelers ’10, Eagles ’10, Packers “Debacle in the Dome. Yes, that’s only a handful of really bad offensive output games, but its sickening to see the same old conservative, dink and dunk offense with so many weapons. Are the Falcons prohibited by law from trying a deep pass over 20 yards? Beginning to think so. Is it 2011 or 2009 with the multiple Matt Ryan one-option rollouts and throws out of bounds?
After all the talk being directed at the cornerback corps, the depth at safety looks to be a much more serious and alarming issue. William Moore and Thomas DeCoud are absolutely rock-solid and its easy to forget about the depth, but there are some serious alarm bells going off in that category. There is already an open spot with the Falcons parting with veteran Erik Coleman and backup Shann Schillinger has looked downright awful against second and third team players. The overall depth in the secondary is an issue, but the players behind Moore and DeCoud are downright frightening. Schillinger may make the team for special teams because it surely shouldn’t be for free safety play. Surely, Thomas Dimitroff has got to hit the waiver wire for safety.
This kind of ties into Point #2 on the conservative, vomit-inducing offensive gameplan, but the Falcons, their coaching staff, and their PR guys need to halt any and all stories about “wanting to” or “being on the verge” of a great passing attack, because they couldn’t be any farther from that fact than they are right now. Why did we get Julio Jones again?
If the Mularkey/Smith led offense can pull the car out of the bland gameplan ditch, than they have one nice receiving corps on their hands. The nicest surprise that could lead to the biggest dividends is the re-emergence of Harry Douglas. Fans have been thinking forever that the offensive weaponry would be too much for basically all teams, powered by HD running in the slot with Roddy, Julio, Gonzalez, and Turner already on the field. HD had a beautiful catch and touchdown run after the Falcons offense seemed to hit one of their famous dink and dunk snags. If HD continues his resurgence and the rest stay healthy, the Falcons wide receiving corps could be one of the best in the NFL. Of course the coaching staff still has to use them correctly.
Michael Turner looked pretty slow. Maybe its was the offensive line’s lack of blocking or the good Jaguars defense, but Michael Turner looked like his cleats were filled with cement. Probably not too worry too much, but as we’ve seen in the past, when Turner has bad days, he has REALLY bad days.
It’s going to be tough trying to keep rookie Jacquizz Rodgers on the bench. He is always going forward and seems to add the long needed complement to Turner and Snelling’s hard running, between-the-tackles style. Quizz has enormous potential and its going to be tough trying to balance the carries between Turner, Snelling, and Rodgers.
Chris Owens looked better in parts. Dominique Franks had his ups and downs. Darrin Walls and Rafael Bush had about the same, but this question will remain until the final roster is announced: with Brees x 2, Freeman x 2, Rodgers, Vick, Manning, Schaub, Cutler, and many more on the docket, are you really comfortable with a cornerback depth of Chris Owens, Dominique Franks, and Rafael Bush?
Same as #1, whatever creative and aggressive and, ultimately effective, blitz scheme Brian Van Gorder had at the University of Georgia, its all but gone in the NFL in Atlanta. The infamous nickel blitz telegraphed from a mile away is now even being picked apart by rookies such as Blaine Gabbert. Maybe the Falcons need better blitzing linebackers, but they are awful when they attempt to get after the QB. On one particular play, both Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton blitzed with a 3 man front and neither got anywhere close whatsoever. Fans aren’t expecting the old days of the Grits Blitz, but for goodness sake, can you ever perform an effective and/or imaginative blitz.
Along with Points #1 and #9, wrapping up is still a major issue with this defense and even special teams. Perhaps its an unfair criticism because the Packers game is still seared in the memory of Falcons fans brains, but how many times do you see a Falcons defensive player be in a perfect position, only to miss a sack or tackle behind the line of scrimmage. My wife counted 6 missed tackles alone on one play where Peria Jerry and Trey Lewis tackled each other as opposed to David Garrard. Pitiful.
Before many of you lodge the bombs that “this is only preseason” and “the preceding are too harsh,” we’re only judging on what we see in preseason and there are either serious issues to resolve or just a matter of major rust to shake off.