As you may have noticed yesterday, the exhibition schedule has been released. What you may have also noticed if you're the kind of person who reads into things a little further—and you read The Falcoholic, so clearly you are a man or woman of discriminating taste in the first place—you'll notice that the pre-season schedule is a fantastic early challenge for the Falcons.
The usual caveat applies here. This is the pre-season, and the Falcons will be playing guys who went to college in the Himalayas and are more familiar with Sherpas than footballs, just to see if they've got the potential to stick around. The starters will get a few early reps and then head to the bench, where they will talk about philosophy and the modern world. It's not an arrangement that lends itself to excitement and a sense of competition, but it's an important rite of passage for backups and young players, and it allows teams to sift through and find the gems in the bunch.
But why is this schedule such a great fit for the Falcons? Warm up your legs and join me after the jump to find out.
Week 1, Kansas City Chiefs: A great warm-up. The Chiefs haven't been a strong team in a number of years, but their offense and defense are very slowly improving. Here, you'll be exposing a lot of our draft choices to their first game action at the NFL level, and those returning will still be shaking off the off-season rust. This gives the team a chance to ease in, give their young guys that all-important playing time against an opponent that isn't necessarily going to kick them square in the pants from moment one.
Week 2, New England Patriots: A nationally televised game against one of the most storied teams in the league at the moment? Nice change from the week before. With the game against the Chiefs done and our new guys (hopefully) getting the jitters out of their systems, they'll be ready to tackle a traditionally deep Patriots squad that will provide a huge challenge, starters or no. Here we'll start to see who has what it takes to make the roster and who doesn't, and that can begin to inform what the coaching staff does from here on out. Or, you know, not. I'm not a coach.
Week 3, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are the closest analog for the Falcons in the National Football League. They've got a hotshot coach, a young and talented roster, and they'll be looking to shake out their depth chart a lot in this week. That gives the Falcons a very even match-up and a look at what they can do against young, up-and-coming teams. Keep in mind that the Bucs and Panthers either fit that description now or will in the very near future—unless their front offices blow it like a volcano—so it's not a bad experience to have at all.
Week 4, Jacksonville Jaguars: And we cap our exhibition schedule with the Jags. With the roster forming in the aftermath of this game, guys will be fighting hard for jobs, and they'll be going against another young team with quite a bit of talent across the roster. I think it's key to not finish the pre-season with a dud match-up, because guys who are relaxing are guys who may or may not be ready for the real Week 1.
Obviously, your record in the exhibitions games is meaningless, but the progress made by your players never is. With a schedule that starts out with a potentially easy contest and is followed by three tough teams, the Falcons will have a chance to move players along on a nice arc. With any luck, the roster they put on the field at the start of the regular season won't just be the best one, it will also be the one that is most prepared.
That's my two cents. Does this make sense to anyone else?