In all my years here at The Falcoholic, there has never been a game that has made me feel less emotional. It was hard to feel happiness or real anger following this game, probably a combination of it being pre-season action and a pretty thoroughly dull contest.
Despite the apathy this game instilled in me, several people sealed their fates Thursday for better or for worse. It's pretty clear how our wide receiver depth chart is going to shake out at this point, I think, and the competition for the third quarterback slot was all but decided by the play on the field. Our defense managed its best Jekyll and Hyde impression, managing to look hideous and wonderful, sometimes in the span of the same play. It was, compared to the nail-biter against San Diego last week, as uninspiring a game as they come. But it did make a difference.
Join me in welcoming the warm glow of the regular season, and then let's break this down.
- I'm an unapologetic Shockley defender, and I have been since he was drafted. If not for his injury, I firmly believe he would have drawn a few starts following the departure of Michael Vick. Alas, poor Shock is not long for this team, as John Parker Wilson played a solid, average sort of game while Shockley imploded. JPW had one fumble--and he was moving around a lot thanks to the second-team offensive line--but otherwise played a cautious, mistake-free game of football. He doesn't have the physical tools of Shockley, but he's a game manager and could be groomed to be the backup someday. I fully expect him to win the job.
- Thomas Brown made a strong case for a roster spot, running pretty well on 11 carries and fielding a pair of kick returns capably. If there's one position where the Falcons are likely to load up, it would be running back, so Brown stands a pretty good chance of surviving the final cuts.
- Three receivers made strong cases to stay with the team. Eric Weems had a couple of nice grabs and looked, once again, good in the return game, and he'd make a pretty terrific fifth receiver option because of his special teams value. Chandler Williams looked amazing on kick returns, and special teams is definitely his calling card. Meanwhile, Marty Booker looked good enough again to win a spot low on the depth chart, but offers no special team value. It might not matter much, but I'd prefer keeping Weems and Williams because they're younger and more versatile.
- Keith Zinger should be the third tight end. Sorry, Jason Rader, but Zinger looked plenty capable Thursday night while making a couple of grabs and throwing a couple of key blocks.
- Remember when I told you Peria Jerry was going to be just fine. Well, just call me the Oracle at Delphi, because I totally nailed that one. With a sack, constant pressure on John Beck and four tackles, Jerry looks to be getting better in a hurry and is a lock to line up with the starters against the Miami Dolphins. With the need for a pass rush still quite pressing, he's going to have value right away.
- Speaking of value, Kroy Biermann illustrated his by looking pretty monstrous out there. Honorable mention goes to perpetually unappreciated end Jamaal Anderson, who after a shaky start managed to not look like the total bust many have already written him off as. If Anderson's getting motivated and Biermann can keep that motor running, this pass rush suddenly looks much improved even with Lawrence Sidbury drawing a ton of playing time.
- To keep my habit of searching for the positive in the secondary going, Chris Owens did force a fumble. High five, Chris!
- With the starters in, Mike Mularkey's offense isn't going to look that boring, but it's worth mentioning that the Falcons weren't exactly moving at a great clip against the Ravens. Part of that is undoubtably due to their defense, but you can't totally ignore the fact that our playcalling is a little predictable at time. That goes doubly for Brian VanGorder, who can no longer escape notice as the defensive coordinator for a team that has allowed second-and-third string quarterbacks to throw more than ninjas at a shuriken convention. Part of it is personnel, but I would really like to take a critical look at the packages being called and see if our guys are being put in a position to succeed.
- The secondary portion of this more or less writes itself. We have got to start seeing more out of this unit. I don't want to judge too much based on pre-season, but it's all I have to go on and I'm starting to get legitimately worried about it. Chris Houston is a nice dude and he's clearly got the talent, but something is going on that is causing him to not be in the right place at the right time, and that could haunt this team something fierce come Week 1. I'll be interested to see whether Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff will push the guys hard and stand pat or if there's another signing on the way.
- It's one play, but Ferguson's end zone drop of a nice JPW pass probably dropped him below Weems and Booker in the pecking order for a roster spot. The fact that Williams and Weems got all the special team action doesn't say much, either. I wish him well.
- I've already mentioned this, but obviously Shockley needed a good game to save his roster spot and wasn't able to deliver. I really hope he gets another shot in this league if he does end up on the cut list.
Game MVP: I've got to hand this one to Peria Jerry. In a game that featured grinding action, Jerry ground more than anybody, and he's a grounded individual. Ground ground ground.
Game Theme Song: The gentle snoring of a fan who has, with a half-full beer in his hand and his Falcons hat tipped down over his forehead, fallen asleep in the wake of that game.
One Thing To Take Away: This team is improving and this team has a much clearer roster picture, but the defense still must improve.
Next Week: We'll be up against the Miami Dolphins in our first regular season game, and it should be a very entertaining contest all the way around, as they're a young team with a few question marks on defense and a pretty talented offense. Check out The Phinsider for more about next week's game.
Final Word: Notwithabangbutawhimper.