Alex Welch put together a nice preview of what to expect from the starters in the second exhibition game.
I'm one of the odd birds who mainly watches preseason action to see the backups. The opener against the Ravens clearly left us with a whole lot of questions.
Here's a list of the top ten things I'll be watching for in this second game.
(And thanks for reading. This is only my second fan post on this board.)
1. Mike Peterson playing MLB against a first unit offense. Akeem Dent is the starter once the regular season begins, but at the moment, we're counting on Mo Pete to fill in if our Bulldog gets banged up. Since this one doesn't count, it's the ideal time to find out if Uncle Mo is still up to the task.
2. Can Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson rebound after last week's outings? JPW led a solid two-minute offense to get Atlanta a field goal in the final minute of the first half. (I think commentator Charles Davis was off base for ripping JPW over the time out call, but that's another topic.) Outside of that one drive, his outing was a horror show. Once again, the artificial turf was his favorite receiver in the second half, and his botched handoff may have been the biggest D'OH! moment of the game.
3. All four candidates for the third tight end spot. I want to see Tommy Gallarda as a receiver. I don't care about LaMark Brown's tipped pass for an interception last week. This week, I want to see him block - or at least try. I think Aron White's fumble last week was a fluke, and I think it's noteworthy that when Davis got in a 2nd and 18 hole, he threw to White twice in a row to get the first down yardage. I want to see more of him. And I'm really eager to see what Dirk Koetter can do with Chase Coffman, though he'll probably need another week to work his way into the offense.
4. Can Matthews and Massaquoi be more consistent? Cliff Matthews didn't even look like the same player that collapsed the pocket and generated pressure last preseason. He'd have a solid play and then disappear for an entire series. (Hmmm... could that uniform number be part of the problem?) Massaquoi had his moments, but he also had several plays where he looked just plain lost. For all the talk about keeping six DEs, it's hard to say that either of them even justified keeping five.
5. Can the second and third unit defense step it up? There was a world of difference in the quality of play between the first unit and the backups. The backups don't get as many reps in practice as the starters, but they weren't playing as a cohesive unit. These guys should know the play book by now.
6. Will any of the candidates justify keeping a fifth member in the RB/FB group? Antone Smith has occupied a roster spot for two seasons. He's useful in kickoff coverage and a gunner on the punt team. But in two years, he has zero receptions and one rushing attempt - for negative yardage.
If he turns out to be the best of the bunch again this year, I think I'd rather stick with four and start the season with six wide receivers. That's what the team did in 2008.
7. Mike Johnson at guard. He only played right tackle against Baltimore, with both the second and third units (with Will Svitek also taking one series at RT with the third unit). He had two serious mishaps. He was the guy who got beaten on JPW's sack, though JPW certainly had time to unload the ball. On another play, he joined two teammates in blocking one inside rusher - while an outside man came free to pressure JPW. Johnson was playing out of position, but I'd guess he's hoping for good performances in the rest of the preseason so that the coaches will give him a pass on this one.
8. Dominique Davis with the second or third unit. Only one of his 12 throws was truly off target, but the stats show a mere 6 for 11 with one INT for his first outing. Part of that was simply that he got stuck with the fourth unit - Bryce Harris and Philipkeith Manley blocking on the left side, Tyler Horn in the middle, and the fourth string receivers as his targets. It would be nice to see what he could do throwing to Cone, Davis, Palmer and Meier with Svitek protecting his left.
9. Can Tim Toone do it again? Offensively, he was the lone bright spot on offense in the second half. He's a smaller receiver, but he has nice speed - and he showed that he can get open and catch the ball. He's not on par with Cone or D.J. Davis quite yet, but he may have already established himself as the best of the rest. And if he can keep doing it, he might become a real factor in the #5/6 WR contest.
I'd also like to see him get to return a punt, as that was the main reason the team signed him. He was the punt return man in the second half, but he only had the opportunity to show that he knows how to plant himself at the ten yard line and make the fair catch.
10. Andrew Jackson or Bryce Harris at RT. Jackson played both LG and RG against Baltimore, but has cross trained at RT this preseason. Harris played LT with the 3rd/4th units but has also played RT frequently in camp. Both of them had major mishaps last week - Jackson whiffed on a block that led to Redman taking a pretty serious hit, and Harris missed an assignment that gave Baltimore an easy sack on Davis. A competent outing at RT would help both of them raise their stock. Otherwise, Pat Hill's boys from Fresno are both headed to the practice squad.
So... that's what I want to see from our reserves this week. Your thoughts?