Friday Night Lights

July 27, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) catches a pass during training camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

If you know me, you might initially assume that this post would include phrases like, "Texas forever," and "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." I’m not, however, referring to the television series of the same name, but rather the Falcons’ annual preseason event in which the offense and the defense scrimmage each other under the titular lights on a local high school football field.

Friday Night Lights was held last night at Peachtree Ridge High School in nearby Suwanee, Georgia, and as always, it was a very fan-friendly event. There was a festival feeling to the evening, with inflatable games and vendor booths upon entry. The national anthem was performed by Christina Davis, who attends Peachtree Ridge High School, while the U.S. Army Silver Wings Parachute Team parachuted onto the field, with the final parachuter bearing the flag. It was exactly as awesome as it sounds.

One of the best things about Friday Night Lights is the presence and participation of the Falcons' broadcast team, Dave Archer and Wes Durham, as MCs for the evening. They do an excellent job of describing the drills in which the team is participating and essentially providing play-by-play throughout, as well as interviewing players and coaches on the sidelines.

The Falcons ran through their usual pre-game stretching, then on to drills--a one-on-one at one end of the field, with 7-on-9 drills at the other end of the field; and then some blitz drills. After drills, they transitioned into a live scrimmage with full contact allowed on most players--quarterbacks excluded, obviously.

Some bullet points regarding player performance, and other random details, at Friday Night Lights:

  • Be very glad we got Asante Samuel. Anything you hear about him in a "decline" is nonsense. The way he reads, and subsequently jumps, routes is something amazing.
  • There has been some speculation that Lawrence Sidbury can be successful in Nolan’s scheme, and his performance last night, including two plays that would have resulted in sacks in actual game situations, confirmed that.
  • The highlight of the night for me was a bomb from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. It was a beautiful catch by Roddy. Matt also hit Julio Jones on a pretty slant, and in a real game situation, Julio would have been gone. I’m hoping to see a lot of all of that this season.
  • Jacquizz Rodgers caught a screen pass. A SCREEN PASS. They exist in real life.
  • Dominique Davis, college free agent QB, has a lot of potential. He has a strong arm, decent accuracy, a quick release, and is very calm in the pocket.
  • Things seemed a little chippy in 7-on-9 drills. I think players get tired of the limited contact permitted in practice. They’re ready for real football.
  • For those of you who are wondering: the Falcons cheerleaders are indeed in game shape. You're welcome, guys.

Both sides of the ball looked good in scrimmage. There was a lot of player rotation in a short timeframe. The offense ended up winning, 7-6. Coach Smith awards points based on a variety of things: for example, "sacks" for the defense, or first downs for the offense. The defense looked great, and kept the offense out of the end zone. The offensive line actually looked decent throughout the night, although Mike Nolan’s blitz schemes are truly a challenge.

Falcons fan and Falcoholic reader Brian O’Hern had the opportunity to attempt some field goals for a $5,000 prize, and while he probably won’t be challenging Matt Bryant for a roster spot anytime soon, it seemed like he had fun and did great in front of such a large crowd, and he came away from the experience with an autographed jersey. The evening ended with an autograph session for fans, and fireworks.

Friday Night Lights is a phenomenal event--admission is free, and it is a wonderful opportunity for fans to come together as a community and support the team. The other great thing about Friday Night Lights is that it signifies that the season is really almost here. I, for one, can’t wait.

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