Hello fellow Falcons fans. I thought I'd take a moment to share a few thoughts on what I saw out of the pre-season game last night. Before I go any further though, I'd like to remind everyone that this is just the preseason, so none of this is a true indicator of what we'll see in the regular season. After all, the Lions went 4-0 in the 2008 preseason before promptly losing 16 straight games. That said, I do think we can see initial indications of how players are looking and how things are progressing.
Ryan looked as comfortable as I've ever seen him. It was nice to see him start in the no-huddle. Even when he was outside of the pocket, he seemed poised and confident. His passes (minus the interception) were near perfect and he showed that talk about having a weak arm was just wrong. He's not throwing lasers, but he can make all the throws.
Redman looked like a guy heading towards retirement. Granted, he didn't have long in the pocket, but he's looking less and less like a capable #2. I hate to see it, because I really like the guy.
John Parker Wilson - I'm glad he got the time that he did. He sufficiently proved to me that he should not be in the NFL anymore. The guy consistently put the ball in the dirt and looked absolutely lost most of the time. Even though he showed some nice leadership at times, he couldn't even properly manage a 2 minute drill, using timeouts poorly. This guy needs to go.
Dominique Davis - I don't want to overstate it, but he has potential. He has a good arm, good mobility and definitely looked better than the other non-Ryan QBs. Granted, he was going against 3rd team, but he showed some confidence in the pocket. It would not surprise me to see him on the roster in a few weeks.
This was the one area I was paying the most attention to, and often would rewind the DVR to get a better look at how things were going. First, let me say this: Sam Baker had a pretty good game. He looked much better than he did last year, and the left side of the line seemed to hold up pretty well for Ryan.
However, the Center and RG spots were less impressive. Going against Ngata will do that to you. We saw a good bit of Hawley + Reynolds at C/RG and it was not pretty. They got blown up a few times, forcing Ryan to scramble. If Reynolds stays as #1 on the depth chart at RG, I'll be shocked.
Once some of the other guys came in, it got interesting. Though they got beat early, Konz (RG) and M. Johnson (RT) seemed to settle down and do a good job on the right side of the line. The left side, with Andrew Jackson at LG and Svitek at LT, didn't impress as much. It wasn't terrible, but going against a 2nd and 3rd team defense is not exactly premiere competition either.
Based on what I saw, my guess is we'll see Konz and/or M. Johnson get a chance in the first quarter next week, especially with how RGGR - or as I call him, "the human red carpet" - played in his chances.
Turner up the gut for 3. That was about all I remember from MT, and to me, it looked like he just didn't have that step anymore. His burst from 2008 and 2010 seems to be all but gone. I'm hoping it is from being timid because of the OLine rotation and new fullbacks, but his performance was underwhelming.
Jaquizz made the most of the opportunities. On several occasions, he picked up positive yards when he should have gone down in the backfield. When he didn't have lanes, he still found ways to push the pile and his 2 yard TD run showed just how much power this mighty-mite has. I'm going to be very curious to see how the RB battle plays out. If last night was any indication, MT may end up taking a back-seat in this newly refined offense.
TG seemingly took the night off, but he's solid as always, so no worries there.
Michael Palmer made a few nice catches, but also showed his blocking ability has really taken a step forward as well. He's shaping up to be a very solid TE. He won't be the next Graham or Gronk, but he's a dependable option that Ryan can use.
The new guys failed to impress, with Lamark Brown and Aron White both exhibiting butter fingers which lead to turnovers. Not a great way to impress the coaches.
I refuse to say anymore about Julio than this: What he did last night was criminal, and he is going to sky-rocket this year. Enough said.
Roddy had some nice catches and in limited opportunities, seemed as reliable as always.
Even though Meier was on the field a good bit, he never got to touch the ball - which is not his fault. Playing opposite of JJ can do that.
Drew Davis showed some nice route running, and some decent hands, though he didn't actually pull a couple of those passes in. I didn't see anything notable out of the other receivers, although Kevin Cone did see some action on special teams.
Sadly (or positively) we didn't get to see too much out of our expected starters. The beer-man did record a sack, and it was obvious that Flacco was getting pressured consistently, so this does bode well.
The more encouraging sign came from our other guys. Sidbury didn't get a sack, but he demonstrated his great speed and was consistently around the ball. Massaqoui also showed some promise, though he showed his rawness, getting beat on the edges a few times. Matthews looked solid as well, so it looks like we have some decent depth at this position.
This was another area I was paying special attention to, as there are some definite question marks about our depth. I'm not as concerned anymore, though I reserve the right to be cautious about my optimism. As mentioned earlier, our front 4 seemed to get good pressure on Flacco (forcing two straight 3 and outs).
In particular, it was nice to see Peria Jerry getting great penetration and recording a couple of tackles. Additionally, I was particularly impressed with Travian Robertson. All of the camp talk about this kid being strong looks legit. He was constantly pushing the pile, and on a few occasions, I saw the Ravens move to double-teaming him to slow him down. If he keeps this up, he could end up in the permanent rotation this year - which would be huge for a seventh rounder.
Weatherspoon looked like a natural leader out there and his energy clearly was a spark for the entire D. Even though he didn't record a sack, you could tell he was causing some havoc, as the offense had to account for where he was lining up. And even though Ray Rice delivered the stiff-arm of doom to him, Stephen Nicholas showed great coverage chops - knocking a ball away on third down. Dent didn't appear to be much of a factor, concussion not withstanding.
The surprise of the night for me was Robert James. Our blessed practice squader showed tremendous speed and looks like a very nice fit for Nolan's scheme. He was consistently around the ball and his speed stood out. If he keeps this up, he may make a hard charge for being on the active roster every Sunday.
Sadly, our safeties - outside of the first quarter - appeared to be somewhat lost. They allowed too much space and got burned a good bit. However, Charles Mitchell did show some flashes of play making ability and did break up a nice pass in the 3rd quarter. I think Shann's days on the roster may be coming to an end, and Chris Hope probably needs more time to adjust to the Nolan way.
Finally - our much discussed position of strength appeared to be so, as Flacco could not connect for any meaningful yards against our starters. Between the front four pressure and our starters covering well, it was a completely different defense out there.
Once you got into the 2nd and 3rd string, though, the pain started. First - even though he did record a reception - I'll be surprised if McClain makes it another 2 weeks. He was regularly torched and just looked completely lost out there. And while Franks made a strong case for being on the roster with his beautiful punt return, he showed that he's still very raw in coverage. Even my favorite - Darrin Walls - didn't look particularly impressive out there. I don't know if that speaks to the quality of the Ravens 2nd and 3rd team offenses, but it didn't bode well for these guys trying to make the roster.
All in all, I think the first preseason game went as well as can be expected. Our starters showed immediate, measurable improvement and some of our 2nd and 3rd stringers showed great promise that could materialize as early as this season.
What did you guys think?