Falcons’ defense still showing reason for concern

Asante Samuel got to A.J. Green too late and was burned for a 50-yard touchdown. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Asante Samuel got to A.J. Green too late and was burned for a 50-yard TD(Curtis Compton)

If there is one absolute about NFL exhibition games, it’s that it never is a good idea to make blanket statements about how great or dreadful something or someone is.

The games don’t matter. More often than not, coaches don’t scheme. Players don’t care. Or maybe one guy cares but the guy who’s supposed to be guarding him is just trying to remember whether he Tivo’d “Shark Week.” And then sometimes, as was the case again Thursday night, NFL replacement officials who in their normal everyday life would be pointing you to the historical biographies section at Barnes and Noble, are so completely botching calls that it’s easy to miss that somebody made a great play.

(Example: The Falcons’ Jonathan Babineaux tackled Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, but was given a personal foul for grabbing the facemask, even though Dalton’s facemask was nowhere near where Babineaux grabbed. I can’t figure out if this is better or worse than last week when the referee kept referencing “Arizona” on the microphone, either because he forgot where he was or he just hadn’t made his way through all of the “A” teams yet in his homework.)

Anyway, back to the Falcons. They played their second exhibition Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. In short, they were just OK.

On defense, actually, they were less than OK.

More like, just, oh …

They lost again, this time 24-19. That really doesn’t mean anything. (Somewhat amusing stat: The Falcons have lost seven straight preseason games.) Maybe none of this will mean anything when they open the regular season in a few weeks in Kansas City. They can only hope.

It wasn’t just that A.J. Green (50-yard touchdown catch) shifted into fourth gear just as Asante Samuel popped a clutch. The Falcons showed some liabilities when the first-team defense was on the field against Cincinnati, and that’s a concern for a team that has been trying to improve its pass rush and third-down defense (and because they’re a team that has allowed 40, 48 and 24 points in consecutive playoff losses).

There was some good. The defensive front was able to pressure on Dalton. Peria Jerry and Babineaux in particular were strong inside. Jerry got called for a borderline roughing-the-passer penalty, throwing down Dalton when it probably wasn’t necessary. But the Falcons probably would take that mistake right now over not getting to the quarterback at all. (It’s easier to coach down than coach up.)

Defensive end Ray Edwards, who needs to have a strong season after a mediocre first season, fell short of impact again. He pressured Dalton but failed to wrap him up for a sack. (Dalton eventually scrambled out of bounds for no gain, and a sack was credited to Jerry.)

The Falcons also missed tackles. They were gashed for a running play by Cedric Peerman (who might’ve gone to the end zone if safety William Moore hadn’t punched out the ball for a fumble). But the biggest issue was the secondary.

Green is great. We know that. We watched him at Georgia and again last season, when he was the first rookie to earn a Pro Bowl trip since 2003. But he made the Falcons’ secondary look silly a few times. He got behind everybody late in the first quarter from the 36, but Dalton threw long and Green made the catch out of the end zone. In the second quarter, on third-and-15 from the 50, Green ran down the right side, made a slight move for an out pattern that Samuel didn’t bite on, but then just blew past the Falcons’ cornerback and cradled a rocket from Dalton for a touchdown.

There was a third play in which Green beat Samuel down the sideline, but Dalton’s pass was underthrown and Samuel was able to close and get a hand in for the breakup.

Samuel is known as a gambling cornerback, and sometimes that costs him. But Green’s touchdown wasn’t the result of gambling — it was merely getting scorched. It wasn’t great foreshadowing for the season considering he was easily the team’s biggest transaction this offseason.

In a few weeks, maybe this won’t matter. Maybe defensive coordinator Mike Nolan can tweak some things. Maybe Samuel gets better. Maybe Edwards gets better. Certainly, everybody will care more. But in Week 2 of the preseason, there was reason for concern.

By Jeff Schultz

172 comments Add your comment

JSS

August 17th, 2012
6:53 am

joke of user name

JSS

August 17th, 2012
7:05 am

As reported by D. Orlando Ledbetter:
“Samuel and Green were battling.” “We were going at it,” Samuel said. “I relaxed on the deep ball a little bit, and he got over on top of me.” Samuel, a noted film student, was not surprised by the deep pass. “It was third-and-long, so it was time to put the ball up,” Samuel said.

Not surprised and didn’t do a dang a thing about it..

Falcondisliker

August 17th, 2012
7:13 am

Keep telling yourself that preseason doesn’t matter….the score doesn’t matter, but the play of your team does….You have some serious defensive gaps….Drew Brees will rip you a new one…just like he does every year…..

Saints will always be > Falcants aka the team that has NO SB RING…

Stay classy…

AlanFalcon

August 17th, 2012
7:14 am

In defense of Asante on the Green touchdown, why was there no over the top coverage help from a safety (a Pro Bowl Rookie with speed, height and ability) that is known and not question?
He was on and Island and it looks to me that someone was at fault, question is who and there in lies the failure !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JSS

August 17th, 2012
7:29 am

Because you safeties are no longer going to play cover 2 unless they in zone… You asked for it, you got it… The defense is now predicated on bring pressure from any area (even if they are not bringing it in the preseason), and those safeties were down in the box all night long…. Moore got Grimes embarrassed on the other side when waffled on coming over to cover a releasing receiver…

To their credit they forced some fumbles, from behind… But this is beyond silly… People have been telling you that you have the worst play recognition safeties in football for three seasons… Blame BVG all you want, it is not just scheme…

Deepdiver

August 17th, 2012
7:48 am

Julio is better than A.J.

Nativebird

August 17th, 2012
7:49 am

This Falcons franchise does have one consistent weakness from owner to management to offense to defense down to the mail room. They all tend to relay heavily on reputation. Samuel, Edwards, Turner, to Peterson, even the great Gonzalez; this coaching staff puts a bunch of reputations out on the field and says, “look, what a great team we have, they’re going to be great!”. As much as I like Smitty personally, for the past four years, there is not enough pressure or fire or motivation, plus the lack of execution and adjustment on game day. Samuel getting burned like a school kid…BY a school kid was just another example of it. Too much blather and swagger….from a team that is not THAT good.

DC Dirty Bird

August 17th, 2012
7:56 am

Wow….defense gives up 10 points in a half to a playoff team from last year and now there are major problems. PRESEASON. NEW SCHEME. This is when you want potential issues to be exposed. The offense looks great because the scheme didn’t change much, just the play calling philosophy.

I’m not gonna be crazy and say we have a top 5 defense in the making, but the doom and gloom Mr. “I’m not a Falcons fan but I can’t breathe without commenting about the Falcons” JSS is simply off base.

Dumbo

August 17th, 2012
8:15 am

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan….gosh, your running crap is the same as GTBob….now we know don’t we!

Jay

August 17th, 2012
8:18 am

Philly was right, Samuel is way past his prime.

Nativebird

August 17th, 2012
8:18 am

Jacquizz Rogers shows just how MUCH Michael Turner has lost a step (or three) every time he’s given the ball. The kid is faster, quicker, shifting and gets MORE yards every time he touches the ball. Turner continue to simply, slowly, just meander into the back of his offensive lineman, who aren’t moving anybody off the line. Yes there’s no huge gaping holes….but there are small cracks…and TURNEr simply cannot get to them or through them. START JACQUIZZ if you want a running game this year.

Crisco

August 17th, 2012
8:20 am

Hey JS…as scary as the secondary looks….the offensive line can’t get out of their own way. Ryan & Turner are going to get beat up very badly if the high school offensive line coach doesn’t figure out what he needs to do and does it it in a hurry

Dawg Done Gone

August 17th, 2012
8:23 am

Plus they have no creditable backup qb. Abraham & Edwards still not getting to the qb. Samuel will get beat by Fitzgerald,S.Smith,C.Johnson,M.Colston,H.Nicks,A.Johnson,P.Harvin,D.Branch,etc.

evil empire

August 17th, 2012
8:28 am

add Devery Henderson to your list DDG…

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 17th, 2012
8:29 am

Poor Falcants. They are just so boring. Julio can’t do it by himself.

Start Davis and Julio will get to the next level. Julio is carrying CHOKE :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 17th, 2012
8:31 am

It’s gonna get ugly against those big Tampa receivers :)

Babineaux the Dog Killer

August 17th, 2012
8:32 am

BABINEAUX Is a DOGKILLER! 2 large dog mysteriously die while wussboy is watching tv? Don’t think so. If not for his paycheck, wussboy would be in jail right now.

The Answer

August 17th, 2012
8:37 am

Dominique Davis will be the backup QB this year and the starter next year. He may have been in scrub time but he shows much greater field presence and aptitude than Ryan. His passes have zip and actually hit receivers in stride. Ryan could learn alot from this kid.

BOO BOO And TT

August 17th, 2012
9:01 am

I’m going to be torn apart for saying this, but it is a blog right? Which are all about opinions and different options… right? I do agree with a lot of what Matt ” Choke” Ryan is saying, he or she just like some others usually come on these blogs just to cause a blog war, but every now and then they have some good points. I like Ryan, I really do believe he has the (ability) to become a top 5 QB in this league, so far in the preseason, I have been impressed with him for the most part. However, he still needs to work on this arm strength and pocket pressance a little bit. He also “eyes’ his receivers way too much allowing safeties and cornerbacks to lock in on his passes.

Dominique Davis, as some have already mentioned has looked impressive so far, true this is only preseason and he is playing against the third string or whatever defense, but HE is a ROOKIE just like the players he is going against, who is to say what he is capable of doing with better receivers in the game? I would like to see him in there as the second string QB next game just out of curiosity, it’s premature, but this guy looks like he could be a football gem in the making, we shall wait and see.

JD

August 17th, 2012
9:08 am

Mr Shultz: Apparently you missed the same old Falcons inability to score inside the Red Zone…2nd quarter, inside the 5 with a first down…settled for 3 points. World class teams Inside the 10 yard line on first down should be automatic 7 points. This all looks just as alarming as the pourous secondary. For all the hoopla and promise of an improved team, these Falcons appear to be the same old guys. They have showed the Fans NOTHING worthy of support.

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Nativebird

August 17th, 2012
9:15 am

Trivia: Question: Why does not John Parker Wilson have three names?
Answer: because it sounds better on the Alabama Insurance Agency office door that he will soon be running? “John Parker Wislon and Associates”.

old scout

August 17th, 2012
9:15 am

These Falcons look a lot like last year’s Falcons except this team has no MLB..and that’s true when Dent is playing. Turner is still the slowest starting RB in the NFL, so there is no running game. The Falcons have no pass rush…the long pass to Green doesn’t happen if there is any pressure. We better hope Ryan and the receivers have a great year or we are looking at about 8-8. It may be worse unless the O-line does a better job of pass blocking. Oh, and these opinions only relate to the starters, not the back-ups. It looks like the Falcons got nothing out of this draft.

JSS

August 17th, 2012
9:17 am

DC Dirty Bird, your defense in its base form has spread like the Red Sea to third line runners like Leonard (was that Najeh Davenport?), not against scrubs, that was your first team. They did not even use their two front line runner BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott…

Two weeks in row starting with Torrey Smith (Flacco overthrow) and now with Green people have run like that thru the secondary… And you still cannot tackle… Off base my butt!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

August 17th, 2012
9:17 am

1st and goal at the 5 vs zero points in the playoffs – see a trend?

Did you guys see how effortless Davis was moving the chains with his feet and strong arm?

Face it Falcants fans, your boy is not the answer. Now I expect when Davis becomes the starter, you guys be as patient with him as you are with CHOKE.

I’m trippin, like you guys would do that…..ha ha :)

Nativebird

August 17th, 2012
9:21 am

Most critical evaluation question from preseason Game 2: Does Dominique Davis own any dogs?

Flacons never learn

August 17th, 2012
9:22 am

Well well…..The Flacons never learn. They give up 2 many draft pix 4 Juliet Jones and cant helpt the strugling defence out at all. 4 the Falcons 2 be sugcessful the will half 2 score about 90 points a game. Sense that is not posible I predict the Flacons go 4 – 12

DawgNole

August 17th, 2012
9:26 am

Dwayne C
August 17th, 2012
3:06 am

Last year the Atlanta Falcons went 0-4 in the preseason, losing all four of their exhibition games. Despite players and coaches on this team downplaying this fact, the Falcons got out the gate slowly looking like crap on the road in their first game vs the CHI Bears. They were 1-2 after three games and 2-3 after five games before getting things turned around and going 8-3 the rest of the season.

If the Falcons stumble early in 2012 I wouldn’t count on another turnaround like in 2011. The NO Saints will be good again in 2012, the CAR Panthers are improving and the TB Bucs will be better in 2012 as well. and the Falcons have some tough games on the road in 2012.

If the Falcons are 2-3 after five games in 2012 look for this team to finish no better than 8-8(and maybe 7-9).
_____________________

One of the few sensible posts on the role of preseason games as a factor in a team’s success. Winning begets winning–and vice versa. Losing ANY game only contributes to a culture of losing–at which this city’s pro sports teams and too many of their fans are nationally recognized experts.

The Truth

August 17th, 2012
9:26 am

LOL @ Ryan looking like a top 5 QB!!! He might be a top 5 QB on the Falcons’ roster, but he’s not a top 5 QB in the NFL. Stats don’t mean anything if you can’t win in the post-season. If Ryan chokes in the playoffs/big games again, I won’t care if he throws for 7000 yards and 85 TDs in the regular season – it won’t make a difference how he is viewed as a QB. He has a lot to prove before anyone starts throwing around the “elite NFL QB” moniker.

smilergrogan

August 17th, 2012
9:30 am

Assante will bite on double moves, and is always looking in the backfield. He knows his rep and high salary come from his history of interceptions. The thing that surprised me last nite was how slow he looked when Green hit the jets.

What will eventually burn your toast down there is his refusal to play press coverage; this means when the opposition has third and five, Assante will be laying off at least ten. Belechick got tired of his act, and the Eagles overpaid. Reid finally tired of him as well. Hope this wasn’t your only off-season acquisition.

BIG TECH

August 17th, 2012
9:32 am

Here we go again with this Matty “Garbage” Ryan! The Falcons and the Dawgs definitely have ONE thing in common and that’s Two way overrated Garbage qb’s!!!

jerry

August 17th, 2012
9:45 am

Note to cameraman: When Turner runs the ball or Redman passes the ball, it is not neccessary to replay the play in slow motion, it already is.

A

August 17th, 2012
9:47 am

So FCS formerly div1aa is expanding the playoffs from 16 to 24 teams and div 1 can’t go to more than 4??? What a bunch of bs

Ignorant to the game

August 17th, 2012
9:52 am

Do some of you just talk to be talking or are you that ignorant? If you all believe that Davis should start over Ryan you’re not watching football. First of all to start Davis you would set the offense back for years. The falcons have made the playoffs three times under Matt Ryan. He’s an nfl quarterback that threw for 4k yards last year. He will not be limited under Koetter’s offense. Davis has not even seen a real nfl defense. Two preseason games playing against a 3rd team defense doesn’t make you an nfl quarterback. He didn’t even get drafted. All nfl gm’s passed on him in the draft, yet you all think he should start over Matt Ryan. He’s the fourth sting qb on the depth chart. If you all think on day 1 that he should start over Ryan then you all are just ignorant to the game.

matt

August 17th, 2012
9:56 am

You mean the defense they could’ve improved with the 5 picks they gave up for Julio JOnes?? That defense????

Wipeout

August 17th, 2012
10:06 am

How fun is atlanta sports fans they as stupid is all M.Vick not here in eagle land hurt and will never be great he may win superbowl if was back up to Ny Giants QB……However we need start playin football not Pantyhouse league…2-2 be nice if we start season 4-0 you be here sayin its a flute!….Saints 12-4 falcons 11-5 Car.Panthers 8-8 n tampa bay 3-13….that me pick for season!

danny

August 17th, 2012
10:10 am

yeah that was a quality defense Davis was going against. You guys crack me up

D rates an F

August 17th, 2012
10:13 am

If the Falcons lose to the Dolphins next week then when the season starts I think I will watch the paid programming on CBS instead of the Falcons on FOX each Sunday Afternoon!

Michelob

August 17th, 2012
10:19 am

Hey Jeff…here’s an idea. Maybe the NFL and the owners should make all preseason games free or maybe just charge like 5 bucks a pop. Good for PR and would allow “regular people” to get to go to a game…it might also fill up the stadiums…is it just me, or do these stadiums seem awful empty this year as opposed to other years…

PMC

August 17th, 2012
10:23 am

It’s not the CB’s we should worry about in coverage, everyone is beaten at times in the NFL.

It’s the safeties in coverage. Neither one has proven that they understand how they are supposed to play or can play well in coverage when asked. Why are guys able to get behind the defense so easily? The safeties are not good in coverege at all.

C From Marietta

August 17th, 2012
10:26 am

Why to over react to PRE SEASON FOOTBALL. It’s glorifed practice. It will be ok.

C From Marietta

August 17th, 2012
10:28 am

The idiots are out in full force on this blog.

Gico Lizzard says

August 17th, 2012
10:29 am

I saved a bundle my not renewing my Atlanta Falcons Season tickets.

PMC

August 17th, 2012
10:33 am

C, other than the people that just hate the Falcons, I don’t think anyone is saying anything critical about losing a preseason game.

It’s the elements of the team that were in question all offseason. I’m excited about the offensive and defensive schemes being different, I love what I’ve seen so far.

It’s the little things that they weren’t doing well before, missed tackles (going back to the chicago debacle last year see SPOON get absolutely embarassed by Matt Forte) The blocking on the OL.

The defensive line looks pretty good and improved, the offensive line looks better than last year. Reynolds looks competant and Baker looks healthy for instance, but they went from Absolutely horrible to fairly competent.

Fairly competent isn’t good enough to win superbowls, or even a playoff game. We knew the skill positions were awesome, they still haven’t addressed the most glaring issues.

CaliDirtyBird

August 17th, 2012
10:34 am

It must be the preseason! All the over reacting, all the trolls who say thing on blogs they’d never say face to face because what they are saying here is so stupid.
First team looks good overall after two games. Yeah the defense gave up a touchdown. Whoopie! To my recollection the gave up a touchdown in every game last year and went 10-6. The year before they also gave up a touchdown in every game and went 13-3.

Susan

August 17th, 2012
10:35 am

Did you all REALLY THINK you would win any game? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s laughable! The Failcant’s team is just as sorry as it always has been and will be. Now Gonzalez is trying his best to continue to play football until the Failcan’t actually win a superbowl…well as sorry as his team is it ain’t gon’ happen no time soon…he will be 100 still telling people he is going to retire…so sad! If he wanted to really win a Superbowl, he should have gotten with a real football team with real fans! Atlanta Failcants do not have real fans! You all are so sorry and sad…

Please tell me WHY was the Georgia Dome empty last night? So sad…

The sad part about the Failcants is you couldn’t tell the difference when Matt (spaghetti arms…ooohhh don’t fall on me) Ryan was playing or not… Such a SORRY DREADFUL team! :)

WOA NELLY

August 17th, 2012
10:36 am

Davis looked really good and definitely should be the #2 QB. He has a great arm and was very accurate. If his wide receivers could have caught his passes on that final drive they might have pulled out a miracle win. GOOOOOOO FALCONS. Oh and Matty “CHOKE” Ryan you are a goober gobbling geek.

CaliDirtyBird

August 17th, 2012
10:41 am

Also, Davis is definitely looking like he may beat out JPW and even give Redman some competition but lay off the sauce about starting him over Ryan. Again something I doubt you’d say in the office because you would want your co-workers questioning your intelligence.
Again, Davis better than Shockley ever was and better than JPW will ever be seems very possible.
Better than Ryan? There are 10 starting QBs that can say that!

CaliDirtyBird

August 17th, 2012
10:43 am

Meant to say aren’t 10 QBs.

falCANS

August 17th, 2012
10:50 am

You guys dont know football. Save the gamble by Assante IN A PRESEASON GAME defense was great. Consistent pressure from the Da line, Stephen Nicholas looked like Spoon 2.0, Daunte Owns the slot position and was “hit sticking” all night. The only problem I seen was Brents Grimes shoulda be playing on the left. The guy is a shutdown corner!! How many catches did he allowed again???