Hello again my fellow Falcons fanatics. I know there's several articles on the main site about the overall team performance and some camp battles, but I wanted to take my normal positional analysis to game 3, since it was the most important preseason game we'll see. I came away impressed in some areas, and disappointed in others. Let's dive deeper into each position.
Matt Ryan - This has easily been the best stretch of games I've seen out of Ryan. His movement in and out of the pocket is excellent and he no longer shows the "happy feet" in spite of getting pressured in the pocket. In fact, through all 3 preseason games, I've only seen one bad decision (the INT in the first game) and his accuracy - especially downfield - has been very, very good. He's obviously far more comfortable in this offense and his confidence is dramatically different from what we saw last year. Again - all of the talk about him having a weak arm has easily been dispelled this preseason.
Chris Redman - In his limited time, Red did what he's always done. He's shown very little to make us think he can win for an extended stretch. While I appreciate what he's done for this franchise - especially in 2007 - I think his days on an NFL roster are quickly coming to an end. He's been the consumate professional, but it's time for him to hand over his backup responsibilities to ...
Dominique Davis - Easily the most pleasant surprise of this preseason, Davis had another very strong outing, completing 2 of 3 passes and throwing a very pretty fade route over 30 yards to Tim Toone for a touchdown. The "Dom-inator" has looked incredibly poised and non-rookie-like in his time in the huddle, and I hope he gets an extended look in preseason game 4. At this point, he's easily out-played both Red and JPW and has made a convincingly strong argument for being on the roster. For me, the only question is whether he should be the #2 QB come game 1.
John Parker Wilson - What? He didn't play at all? It's sad, but his non-appearance registers game 3 as his BEST preseason performance so far. If JPW is kept on this roster, I will be thoroughly convinced that he has some incriminating pictures of Smitty and/or TD.
Before we dump more hate on this line, I think it should be noted that this is a "Nolan crew" and was a top 10 defense last year. They actually got BETTER down the stretch last year, and were known for generating good pressure. That said, here's the long and short of it: the offensive line is better, but still has a ways to go.
Konz did nothing to secure a starting spot, allowing a sack up the middle. And his competition, Garrett Reynolds, doesn't look that much better. Both men showed several instances of being dominated off the snap and this needs to get sured up before the first regular season game. For the second game in a row, Tyson Clabo had a poor outing. At this point, only McClure and Blalock should have guaranteed spots in the starting 5.
That said - we did finally get to see Lamar Holmes in action and the verdict? He's a rookie. His first snap was a false start, which is not that surprising. However, seeing him on the field makes it obvious why he's being talked about - he is an absolute mammoth of a man. In one particular sequence, he threw off two defenders as if they were gnats. However, he was beat once on a speed rush (nearly holding the defensive player) and was also beat on a power rush because he didn't get low enough on the defender. The bottom line on Lamar is that he showed great potential, but he is still learning. I don't think he's an upgrade over Baker - YET. But his upside is far greater than anything Baker has to offer.
Overall though, the line played decently and there is some noticeable improvement over how the squad looked last year. My hope is that the next few weeks finds a solid starting roster that can finally gel over the course of the season.
Michael Turner - The big man didn't look as slow as he has in the first two games, though he was still somewhat ineffective coming out of the backfield. However, Turner has looked good when he's gotten the ball in space, pulling in quite a few yards on a screen play. He's showed decent hands so far this preseason, which bodes well for being less predictable with him in the backfield. Let's be honest - we need one more good season out of Turner, and we need him to be a legitimate option in our offense. I'm holding out hope that he's been holding back this preseason to stay fresh for the regular season.
Jaquizz Rodgers - The mighty-mite had another good outing. He showed the ability to consistently break tackles and he looked very good as our primary kick returner.
Antone Smith - This guy shows incredible burst and speed, but until he can do it consistently, he's going to be relegated to special teams and very few meaningful game time snaps in the backfield. He's the consummate story of "flashes of potential" that seem to never be fulfilled.
Tony Gonzalez - The future hall of famer looked solid as always. He's no longer the type of TE to give you significant YAC, but he's got the best hands in the business and still finds a way to be open at the exact right spot. It will be a sad day when this mega-star retires.
Tommy Gallarda - Made an impressive catch in traffic and held onto the ball while being thumped. The 3rd TE spot looks to be a competition between Gallarda and Lamark Brown.
Julio Jones - Even though he had good stats, there were about 3 shots downfield that looked like JJ could have caught. I'm not too concerned, as these are the types of throws that start connecting in the regular season. What is obvious is that the timing between Ryan and JJ has been very good, and JJ has also shown the ability to go to the ball (the 49 yard gain as evidence). It's amazing that JJ didn't have a great game, and yet still pulled in 90 yards in a little over a half of play.
Roddy White - For all the talk surrounding Julio, Roddy showed why he should still be considered a #1 WR. He and Ryan consistently hooked up and his TD catch was just beautiful, even getting Larry Fitzgerald to give Roddy props on twitter. I think Roddy will still have a huge season this year, even if he doesn't get the same number of touches.
Harry Douglas - HD finally showed up and looked good. He found some passes and showed the ability to avoid tackles and break one-armed tackle attempts. He'll be very important to this offense this year.
Others - Tim Toone looked good in special teams coverage and had the very nice catch for TD towards the end of the game. With neither Drew Davis or Kevin Cone showing much this preseason, Toone stands the chance of sneaking onto the roster under the radar. I think the fourth preseason game will be critical to determining who our #5 WR will be.
John Abraham - Though he didn't register a sack, he was constantly in the backfield and causing good pressure. I think Abe is going to be good for 8 to 12 sacks this year and is still our best DE.
Kroy Biermann - I'm a big Beer-man fan, and he showed why in this game. He's a great asset on special teams, and also generated great pressure when he got his opportunities. I think we've only seen glimpses of how Nolan is going to use this guy. I'm going on the record to predict that Kroy will have a big season in this defense.
Laurence Sidbury - El Sid looked good again, forcing a fumble in the second half and otherwise being a nuisance to the offense. He was consistently in the backfield and his closing speed is probably the best of any of our DEs.
Peria Jerry - With Corey Peters still out with the "mystery injury", Jerry has looked very good this preseason. After re-watching the game, it is clear that Jerry is very disruptive. At one point, the Dolphins started double-teaming him and he was STILL getting good penetration. The timing is good with Peters going down, and maybe Jerry will FINALLY live up to that first-round billing.
Jonathan Babineaux - Solid as usual, and still an incredible run stopper. Though he's on the down-slope, Babs is still better than 80% of the Tackles in this league.
Vance Walker - Our 7th round rotational player came back and did a good job of penetrating the line.
Travian Robertson - I think this kid has played his way onto the 53-man roster. He is incredibly strong and continues to show the ability to disrupt the line and put pressure on the QB. He looks to be a solid rotational guy with some good upside. I really like what we've seen here.
Sean Weatherspoon - He showed why everyone is predicting a big season. He's got great coverage skills and showed he's going to factor into the pass rush this year as well.
Stephen Nicholas - I think this guy is incredibly under-rated, and he showed why. He's consistently around the ball and has showed very good coverage skills.
Akeem Dent - He was given the opportunity to play on third down a good bit and did ok. He showed good tackling skills and good closing speed, but was out of position on a couple of plays. He's got some growing to do, and hopefully we can overcome his learning curve in the early games of the season.
Thomas DeCoud - I know everyone is excited about what William Moore can do in a Mike Nolan defense, but DeCoud is quietly having a very good preseason. He was consistently around the ball in this game, making good tackles and also registering the interception early on. He seems to have a nose for finding the football and being in on each play. If he can continue this trend, he will help make this a very hard secondary to pass on.
William Moore - I think he deserves an intimidating nickname, because this guy can flat out hit. His thump early on that disrupted the pass made MY teeth rattle. Nolan's defense plays very well to Moore's strength, and if he can stay healthy, this will be the year that Moore shows up on the national radar.
Brent Grimes - Money. He's always where he needs to be. I hope the Falcons can lock him up after this season, as he is easily our best corner right now.
Asante Samuel - He had a very solid night and even showed that he does know how to bring players down. His coverage was very good overall and the swagger has spread to the rest of the DBs.
Dunta Robinson - Sadly, DR didn't have a great game, but he was in the right place on several occasions. He's a good bit better than our nickel corners last year, but he's not the corner that we had hoped for when we signed him several years ago.
Dominique Franks - Disappointing. Franks showed nothing again on special teams, and he looks somewhat lost while in coverage. Though he didn't get as badly burned as in the first two games, he's showing signs of regressing - and at a position that requires confidence and swagger to be good. I hope he can bounce back, but he's looking less impressive with each game.
Overall, I was relatively pleased with the performance of the team, though the number of field goals was disappointing. I'm hoping we can improve the red zone efficiency in the first few games of the season. That said, it's incredibly obvious to me that this team is playing differently. On both offense and defense, the team is clearly more aggressive. We're taking more chances - more shots down field, more blitzes instead of soft zones. These are the things we've been waiting to see and even though the immediate results haven't been always spectacular, just seeing the change in mind-set is incredibly encouraging. Guys like Ryan and Weatherspoon have taken noticeable steps forward, while lesser known names are stepping up noticeably.
What did you guys think?