A Pre-Season Snoozefest: A Falcons-Jaguars Recap

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 19: Peria Jerry #94 of the Atlanta Falcons tackles Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during a game at EverBank Field on August 19, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

So much offense! I was especially thrilled when Matt Ryan threw that pass out of bounds and then zzzzz...

Okay, it wasn't the most exciting game the Falcons have every played. For stretches, it was as boring as tennis in slow motion. That's just how pre-season games go sometimes, especially when your schemes are vanilla and you have a few starters sitting it out. The worst thing to do, after watching the Falcons bumble and bobble their way through the Jaguars game, would be to panic.

Remember: Neither team was bringing their best to the table here, not with a regular season tilt coming up in December. That doesn't mean there aren't things worth criticizing—it was a sloppy game filled with sloppy individual performances and offered a dizzying array of missed tackles—but it does mean we should temper that criticism with the realization that this coaching staff isn't sitting on its collective ass between now and September 11. We had plenty to complain about in the 2010 pre-season, and that year worked out reasonably well.

Fortunately, there were still plenty of bright spots, which you'll find along with our lowlights after the jump. If I missed one, lemme know.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Matt Ryan looked good on his completions...and not so good on his incompletions. Go figure.

    But Chris Redman was damn effective last night, and should put any whispers about John Parker Wilson challenging his backup job to rest. He even looked good on a scramble, the one where my addled brain thought he was Adam Froman.
  • Jacquizz Rodgers looked fantastic. He piled up 39 yards on seven carries, and while it was against backups, he ran with confidence. A guy that agile, quick and powerful has a bright future, regardless of how tall he is. Don't expect to see him listed with the third-stringers next time out.
  • Harry Douglas looks like a stud in the slot. With Matt Ryan throwing to him, Douglas turned on the burners on a 76-yard touchdown and added a sharp 11 yard route. I know it's typical for teams to talk about guys finally being healthy, but it looks like Douglas really is.
  • Julio Jones didn't get a lot of throws his way, but pulled in two catches for 30 yards and looked great doing it. With his elite combination of size, speed and soft hands, JJ won't disappear very often.
  • I don't care what the refs said. Kerry Meier made that catch, and it was awesome.
  • In a game marked by an offensive line that broke down more often than the cast of Jersey Shore, Garrett Reynolds generally looked pretty good. He got beat badly once, but as famed scout Russ Lande noted, looked strong the rest of the night. Reynolds is getting closer to a starting job.
  • Dominique Franks showed that he's a tremendous athlete and a great tackler. Unfortunately, it wasn't all good, but we'll get to that.
  • Jonathan Babineaux is a scary good football player. He came up with a sack and got good penetration all game long.
  • Peria Jerry had a sack. Yeah, it was against backups, but he showed some of that slashing ability we all want to see from him. Good start, at least.
  • Sean Weatherspoon was a beast. A fumble recovery, half a sack, a slapped down pass in coverage and a ton of energy out there. I think he's set to bust out in a big way in 2011, especially with a stronger line in front of him.
  • Bear Woods showed a knack for reading the play, getting into the backfield once and dumping the Jags' running back. He's facing an uphill battle, but his intelligence is a big asset.
  • Stephen Nicholas was tough and fast, as always. His ability to be disruptive near the line is a testament to why he has a starting job.
  • Emmanuel Stephens is making a case for a roster spot, or at least a chance at the practice squad. Surprisingly quick around the edge.
  • Cliff Matthews is rapidly becoming a favorite. He was in the backfield giving chase on more than one occasion, forced a fumble and, unless I misread the number on my screen, got a hand on a pass. He was injured and forced off the field last night, but by all accounts it wasn't serious. I'm expecting him to be a valuable reserve right off the bat.
  • What can you say about Brent Grimes that hasn't been said? The dude is a pass-picking machine. I don't think it would be unfair to say that he might have the best coverage skills on the team, too.
  • Matt Bryant is incredibly reliable. The Falcons were exceptionally lucky to get him and hold on to him, given how he's kicked.
  • Matt Bosher looked much better lats night than he did in the first pre-season game. Nailed his kickoffs, looked above average on punts and came up with a handful of tackles. He's a tough son of a bitch, and I like it.
  • Then again, Ken Parrish had a better net average again. Don't completely count him out yet.

LOWLIGHTS

  • Either the Jags' pass rush improved or the Falcons' line got a lot worse. Joe Hawley seemed to struggle at center, Sam Baker was inconsistent and the backups made some boneheaded mistakes.

    That certainly was a factor for Ryan, who looked skittish in the (sometimes non-existent) pocket and threw the ball away more than once. This isn't a major concern, but it gave me unpleasant flashbacks.
  • Michael Turner had a couple of decent runs, but largely struggled behind a line that didn't do a great job run blocking for him. Again, not a major concern, but a tentative Turner sets my teeth on edge.
  • Antone Smith probably lost his job last night, which is a shame. His drop and kick of the ball on a third quarter return hurt his chances pretty badly. 
  • Okay, back to the line. They were pretty putrid. There's really no way to soft-pedal that. I give the Jags credit for blitzing effectively throughout the game, but they were downright bad in pass protection as a unit, starters and backups alike. Run blocking seemed like a foreign concept to the left side of the line Let's hope that's remedied the next time around.
  • Franks was not great in coverage. I think he's going to do well sooner rather than later, but playing hands-off coverage doesn't suit him well. Hopefully in the regular season, the Falcons' probable nickel back will be playing close to his man and knocking his teeth loose as soon as he catches the ball.
  • Aside from Grimes and a couple of nice players by Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, I wasn't impressed with the secondary. That might have partly been vanilla scheming from Brian Van Gorder, but they were playing off and having trouble tackling most of the night.
  • Since I identified him as a player to watch, I would have liked to have seen more from Brandyn Harvey. He didn't even have a catch in this one.
  • Lot of little injuries in this one. Thankfully, Peria Jerry was able to come back, but we won't know about Cliff Matthews until Sunday. Cross your fingers.

THE WRAPUP

Game MVP: Going with Jacquizz this time around, since there was no clearly standout player. It was a great game for him.

Game Theme Song: This one's for the offensive line.

One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons still need to knock some rust off, but some of the rookies are starting to really catch on. Damn, that's two things. Oh well.

Next Week: The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, who manhandled Mike Vick and the Eagles this week. Check out Behind The Steel Curtain for more.

Final Word: Sloppy.

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