It started out innocently enough. Before leaving for work yesterday, I tweeted the following:
AdamLSchultz: Give @790TheZone a follow because they're the only way I'll be able to "watch" the game while at work tonight.
I didn't have tickets to the game and it was starting almost an hour before I would get to leave work (my shift, fyi, starts at 11am, ends at 8pm) so the tweet was quite literal. The only way I (or anyone else stuck at work for that matter) was going to get to "watch" the game with no TVs in our office was the radio. So I tweeted that to mainly remind myself that 790am was the new radio home of the Falcons games. I left for work, jammed out to some music on the commute, arrived at work, and started earning some dough.
I checked Twitter on the trusty iDevice while on bathroom break and saw this waiting for me in my DM box:
790TheZone: do you want to go to the game?
Yes. I did. So did four of my "omg I love the Falcons" coworkers.
So a big thank you to 790AM The Zone for the tickets. Thanks to them, I'm able to bring you my observations from Section 334, Row 21, Seat 12 instead of the Schultz family couch this week. Follow the jump for the magic.
As this is the preseason, I'll offer some general observations of the first teamers and leave the Good/Bad/Ugly sections for the players/stringers I paid the most attention to once the first team off/def left the field.
The first team came out shaky, but once the rust was gone, the well-oiled Falcons offense and defense came out. The defense held the first team Dolphins to one first down while the Falcons first team offense went score happy and had seventeen unanswered points. The defense still has issues hemming in a mobile quarterback and Van Gorder's playcalling was about as vanilla as soft serve from Dairy Queen. Still, the defense worked despite looking almost identical to last year's squad in both personality and skill level. I won't mention Abe's interception mostly because that sort of aberration only occurs about twice a year. While a head's up play, I still believe Abe shouldn't have been in coverage to begin with.
I will, however, mention Grimes' pick mostly because it was so damned beautiful. Grimes is, I'm safe to say, the best cornerback in our starting secondary. You're free to argue with me, but the man just knows how to pick a ball off. He's like a springy gazelle. How he's able to jump, pivot 180 degrees, and then somehow land on his feet clutching pigskin is beyond me.
Outside of a certain expensive addition I'll discuss later, the first team offense was business as usual. Matt posted a 122 QB rating and made some nice medium-to-long throws, though his habit of underthrowing receivers still managed to crop up out of the gate. Still, it's nice to see him throwing more. Turner looked lighter and faster in the hole than he did last year. Snelling, despite his lessened practice time, looked as snazzy as ever coming out of the backfield. He's the most graceful receiving back I've yet to see in the NFL. Gonzo hasn't lost anything, Douglas finally looks to have that injury fully behind him, and the OL looks just as mean as it has in the past. Looking better is Eric Weems in the receiving corps. He caught a couple of nice passes for positive yardage and in the preseason, that's good enough to earn a mention.
Now, onto the important observations
- Julio Jones. I said it on Twitter last night and on Dave's post-game post but I'll say it again, officially. I told you so. Two 20+ yard passes (one that he made happen after getting the ball dumped to him) and a 12 yard end around. What more could you ask for from a first-year rookie? The pundits always say that drafting a wide receiver in the first round is a risk, something that smacks of desperation. Not with Jones. Dimitroff and company knew exactly what they were getting when they signed half of 2012's draft away to snag Julio. Jones showed last night exactly why we paid such a high price for him. Granted, this is the preseason, and yes, the Dolphins will likely suck this year, but still. Playing for Nick Saban made Julio NFL-ready and it showed last night. There's a reason he was playing first team and no, it's not just because it's preseason. The kid's YAC, speed, burst, route-running, and run blocking were solid in college and are already at a level where success can be had in the NFL. There will be rough games for him once the season starts and he won't be able to get that open that quickly against stronger opponents right away. My point has been made, though. Jones will likely turn out to be worth much more than we paid for him in the long run.
- Dominique Franks. I always had lots of confidence in Franks watching him in camp last year, but he's made one heck of an improvement since then. The Franks we saw on the field last night will be a contributor this season. The only question will be how he fares against tougher opponents.
- Cliff Matthews. He consistently blew up his side of the line and the Dolphins began skirting that area after a while. I'm impressed.
- Kevin Parrish. His punts' hangtime and distance smelled a bit Koenen-ish. Let's see if that continues through the preseason. If it does, I think we found our new Punter. He was definitely better at it than Bosher.
- Michael Palmer. We didn't get to see enough of Palmer last year but he made one heck of a Gonzo-like catch last night. Matter of fact, his body type and catching style is pseudo Gonzo too. What can I say, I like the kid.
- Fan turnout. I've been paying attention to preseason Falcons games for five years now. Last night's fan turnout seemed the most energetic, largest preseason crowd I've ever seen. It's nice to see our fanbase growing inside the city itself.
- Most of the Second/Third string defense. They looked like the "Boo Birds" of 2007. Not a good thing, in other words.
- Christopher Owens. I can count on one hand the amount of good plays Owens has had. None occurred last night. He looked completely lost at times against a hodgepodge of second and third teamers.
- Transient Fans. This may always be a problem in the ATL, and while this game it wasn't as bad, there were quite a few Dolphins fans cheering last night. Around the third quarter, with the first/second team Dolphins shredding the third string Falcons, the atmosphere changed to more of a Dolphins home game because...
- Fans leaving too early. I know it's a preseason game and you want to beat the traffic but you guys do this during the season too. Supporting a team doesn't mean staying because they win. It means staying because you love the team no matter what. Yeah, we all get mad and disappointed when the Falcons are losing but this new squad of Birds, as evidenced last year, don't give up. Neither should you. Stay in your seats.
- Adam Froman. First official game or not, that was just ugly. Sorry kid, unless a miracle happens, I'm striking you off of my depth chart projection. I think we'd take an injured JPW over you for third string.
- The QB battle. This is a yearly joy for me. I love seeing the lesser QBs battling for depth chart position behind Ryan. From last night's showing, it's clearly still Ryan>Redman>JPW. John Parker got a lot of reps last night and outside of some mistakes (the INT and the bad timing routes) looked solid enough to grow into a Redman replacement a couple of years down the road. Froman... well you know my thoughts on him.