Even though the Falcons actually lost the game against the Ravens in the first preseason game and the backups looked pretty bad, fans were filled with hope from the new coordinators and the first team’s play. Expectations were tempered a little bit as the Falcons lost again to the Bengals on Thursday night. More than the score, there were some areas for concern in the second preseason game. To be sure, there were still plenty of bright spots in all phases of the game, but not quite the performance from a week ago. A review from the Falcons-Bengals game:
The defense came out and dominated the Ravens in the first game, holding them to three straight 3 and outs. The offense looked superb, driving at will on a team known for it’s stellar defensive play. Hope was sky high. The Bengals game may not have been terrible, but it surely didn’t inspire the same confidence the first game did. The offense stalled out on their first two drives (a painful reminder of the Mularkey Era) and the defense gave up some big plays, with many of them coming on 3rd and long (an ugly remnant of the Van Gorder Era). There were plenty of bright spots. Ryan and Jacquizz Rodgers looked good and on form. The full inclusion of the offensive arsenal being included by Koetter is making many fans smile. Mike Nolan is running an aggressive defense that, despite some hiccups, is producing consistent pressure. But there were plenty of areas to be concerned about as the season approaches.
Continuing the same point from last week was another encouraging display from the franchise QB. Who knows the exact reason, but the fact is that so far Ryan looks quicker, stronger, more accurate, and above all more comfortable at quarterback. The new offense appears to play more to his strengths and it shows. The offensive line is giving him more protection as well, at least more than last year. There were some stalled drives in the beginning and some points left in the red zone, but at one point he was 11-for-11 in the game. Maybe, just maybe, the Falcons QB might be taking the long-awaited “next step” that so many media members love to talk about.
Although fans don’t particularly love preseason games, coaches do so they can work out issues like tackling. It’s likely a problem with most teams, but the Falcons looked particularly weak against the Bengals. Sean Weatherspoon missed a tackle on Jermaine Gresham that may have forced the Bengals into a fourth down. After the miss, Gresham rumbled for another 15 yards or so. Asante Samuel came up and looked pitiful on an attempted shoulder tackle where the running back easily jumped over him. Ray Edwards had his hands on a sack and couldn’t finish the deal. It’s nothing to panic over just yet, but it does need to get cleaned up.
This shouldn’t be seen as a call to immediately drop Turner or that he can’t give some good contributions to the Falcons, but he no longer seems to be a feature back, at least so far and at least in this offense. Turner looks slow and the offense seems to grind to a halt when he’s in the game. That’s surely an oversimplification because the offensive line has it’s issues and sometimes plays aren’t called right, but Turner doesn’t seem to fit in this new offense. Whether it’s a not a good scheme fit for him, the dreaded “30 age wall” has taken hold, or some combination of both, Turner looks ineffective, plain and simple. Maybe it’s only preseason and he’ll hit get his mojo soon, but right now, Jacquizz Rodgers should be getting most of the backfield snaps, for when he’s in the game, the offense seems way more productive.
One of the worst plays of the game was easily Asante Samuel getting absolutely torched by AJ Green down the sideline, but that wasn’t the only one. The Falcons had the Bengals hemmed up with another 3rd and long, only to see Bruce Gradkowski impersonate Tim Tebow and gallop for a huge gain. There were several other defensive breakdowns that led to 1st downs and big gains for the Bengals, including several long passes given up Dominique Franks. Overall, the defense is already much improved and more aggressive, but installing a brand new defensive philosophy will take time and there will be errors.
Obviously, no team can convert on every single drive, but the Falcons offense seemed to be going well on their first two possessions only to bog down and fail to convert on some short 3rd down and distances. That was a trademark of the Mularkey Era. To their credit they did follow up with an excellent TD drive, but it was a slight cause for concern.
There’s still two games left and 3 weeks until opening day, but knowing Coach Smith’s tendencies and past, there’s a feeling among fans that they already know who’ll be starting against Kansas City: the exact same starting lineup from 2011. Sam Baker has definitely looked better at left tackle and, predictably, Tyson Clabo and Justin Blalock have done well. Even Todd McClure seems to have a legit hold on the center job for 2012, but the right guard issue still remains. Garrett Reynolds hasn’t looked as bad as he did last year, but that’s not saying very much. He looked OK against the Ravens but didn’t have a very good game vs. the Bengals. On one 3rd and short, Reynolds completely blew an assignment that led to a killed drive. Peter Konz looks pretty good, but has only worked with the second team. Andrew Jackson had a horrid game at left guard and Mike Johnson didn’t fare much better at right tackle. Questions have arisen in the past about the validity of a “fair and open competition” at various positions. Will fans be sick over right guard again in 2012?
The loss of Corey Peters with a foot injury spelled doom and gloom for Falcons fans across the board. Peters still isn’t back, but a silver lining may be seeing Peria Jerry looking as good as he ever has in a Falcons uniform. Jerry looks quick and sturdy and has generated good pressure already in Peters place. He was credited with a sack and forced Andy Dalton and the Bengals into a 4th down, but the replacement refs really botched a call on Jerry, giving them a new set of downs. As long as Jerry can stay healthy, he may have his best season in store for the Falcons and their fans.
There’s really no other way to say it, but Coach Smith and Thomas Dimitroff are reaching a critical mass where backup Dominique Davis is concerned. The current backup quarterbacks are inept at best and atrocious at worst. John Parker Wilson beat out DJ Shockley in 2009 and there was some belief at the time that he could eventually take Chris Redman’s place as the solid backup. Not only has Wilson shown an inability as a backup, but he’s also revealed his status in the NFL at large. Chris Redman is 35 years old and has a ton of experience and zero upside coupled with an extreme case of declining abilities.
Dominique Davis, however, has shown immense potential in all aspects of the game: awareness, arm strength, accuracy, decision-making, and all the rest. Redman is done and Wilson’s out of practice squad capability. The time for youth and potential is now with Davis. The East Carolina product has shown an excellent play-making ability and potential. The critical mass has been reached with Davis: he’s simply too talented to put on the practice squad and risk getting poached by another team. And as longtime Cage member JohnWaynesWorld mentioned, all these other teams that desperately need a backup QB have been watching very closely. Sometimes it’s easy to rest with your principles and play it safe with veteran experience.
But Coach Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have reached a critical mass, where everyone can give the eyeball test and know that Davis is supremely talented and too potential-laden to put on the practice squad and risk losing. It’s time to cut the proverbial cord and promote talent and upside (Davis) over perceived experience.
Robert James is looking as good as he ever has. He’s making plays on defense, running to the ball-carrier, and getting it done on special teams. After so many discarded him (heavily including this author), it’s nice to see someone persevere and be so determined. He looks to wrapping up the last LB spot.
Travian Robertson will likely be a starter sooner rather than later. The big boy from South Carolina looked superb in his chances against the Bengals. He was flowing to the ball, standing up stout in run defense, and getting his hands up to deflect passes several times. Not only will this guy make the roster, he’ll challenge for snaps as a rookie
Jonathan Massaquoi, Antone Smith, Michael Palmer, and Pat Schiller showed some flashes and should be considered for a roster spot, but the numbers game may not be in his favor.
Barring an earthquake-sized reformation, Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson should be looking for a post NFL career. We can talk all day about the reasons and circumstances, but the simple fact remains that they just haven’t been that good. Time to cut the cord. Davis should be the new #2.
Garrett Reynolds wasn’t as bad as last year, but he’s not the future at RG either. What has happened to Dominique Franks? He is an extremely talented cornerback, but he had a bad night on Thursday, giving up a touchdown and a very long pass. Andrew Jackson looked really bad at left guard. He literally appeared to be getting burnt on every play. Mike Johnson played right tackle and looked OK for a while, only to take a sharp nosedive in the second half.
Will Svitek looked rather pedestrian in his work at left tackle. He was beaten a few times. Kevin Cone and Drew Davis canceled each other out. Both had drops and missed opportunities. The battle for 5th receiver seems to be between Cone and Davis.
It’s likley that Spencer Adkins and maybe Cliff Matthews will make the final roster, but they haven’t gone above and beyond to ensure it. There’s always a the battles for the remaining few roster spots. Adkins has made the team since being drafted. Cliff Matthews has shown potential, but hasn’t been heard from in preseason. It seems as though the final TE spot is coming to UDFA Lamark Brown and recently signed Chase Coffman. There’s still a few weeks to go, but the roster will only get more competitive.
1) Simple Leadoff: your thoughts on the Falcons-Bengals game?
2) On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your confidence level in the Falcons (1 being least and 10 being most)
3) Are you worried about the Mularkey-esque, stalled drives on offense?
4) Concerned about the big-play potential from defense?
5) What is the deal with Michael Turner: just warming up or done?
6) What’s your opinion on the OL, especially RG?
7) Is Jerry finally ready to blow up?
8.) What should the Falcons do with Dominique Davis: #2 or #3 QB?
9) Do the stalled drives concern you?