In the final preseason game, the Falcons were simply looking to evaluate their roster hopefuls. The Jaguars decided to get most of their defensive starters a few more snaps. The results were initially pretty ugly, but once the backups were on even footing, the Falcons started to roll a bit. It just wasn't enough to win.
The most important takeaway tonight has nothing to do with the final score or even how the offensive line works, considering it was mostly backups all game. It has everything to do with the individual performances that help settle rotations and roster spots, and there were plenty of those last night.
Those who are tempted to suggest that the 0-4 record means the Falcons aren't ready for the regular season and/or means something: Stop it. What the Falcons do on the field with their actual gameplan come the regular season will bear no resemble to these four games, and if they fail it won't be because of
Hey, look, fans will continue to be nervous about Lamar Holmes at right tackle. They'll continue to debate whether Dominique Davis is the worthy backup to Matt Ryan. We all want to know who is going to make the team. Ultimately, though, what matters is that a relatively healthy Falcons team will be on the field for Week 1 against the Saints, and the coaches have plenty of film and practice time in the bank so they can craft the most effective roster. That's the best you can ask after the fourth week of preseason.
Cuts are coming over the next two days. For now, let's look at the individual performances from this one.
- Dominique Davis got the start and wound up coming back in, looking solid against the Jags' backups and really good against their third-stringers. Having to play against starters initially didn't help him, but the presumptive #2 quarterback had a nice night overall. Still a big believer in the talent.
- Sean Renfree was pretty sharp in his limited action, but a shoulder injury knocked him out late in the third quarter. Cross your fingers and hope he's not seriously hurt.
- I hate to say it, but short a very good run blocking line, Jacquizz Rodgers just isn't going to do a ton as a runner. As a weapon out of the backfield he's mighty useful, but he struggled to get anything going behind the same line averaged over four yards a carry behind.
Antone Smith did his darndest to stick on the roster, but if the Falcons were leaning toward Josh Vaughan for fourth running back already, he's probably doomed. Vaughan ripped off a hellacious 65 yard run for a touchdown. He definitely runs with more power than Smith, though Smith is shiftier.
Special teams still matters for fourth backs, though, and Smith is better there. He'll probably win the job, but Vaughan is making things damned interesting.
- Bradie Ewing quietly blocked well and showed why he'll be an asset on special teams as a stout tackler. I like the cut of his jib.
- The Falcons probably would have liked Kevin Cone or Darius Johnson to really distinguish themselves, but it didn't happen. Each missed a pass. Cone's superior blocking and the fact that he's a known quantity as a special teamer may well win out, despite Johnson's quality hands. We'll know soon enough.
- Chase Coffman just catches passes. Whether this success will translate over into the regular season or not remains to be seen, but if it does, you can squint and envision Coffman, Levine Toilolo and a blocking tight end doing some good things in 2014 and beyond.
- The offensive line struggled a bit early...but with the exception of Lamar Holmes, it was all backups. The Jaguars trotted out the majority of their starting defense, so it was a hell of a lot easier to forgive the mistakes in this one. Holmes still has some work to put in before Week 1, though, and the Falcons have to be a little nervous about his up and down performances. I still think there's underrated depth here, at the very least.
- Jonathan Massaquoi has shown flashes this preseason, and I can imagine no flash brighter than picking up a sack, forcing a fumble, picking up the fumble and running it in for a nine yard touchdown. If he can put it together in 2013, the rotation at defensive end is going to look much better than it did a year ago.
- Adam Replogle is far from a finished product against the run, but the strength still shows well. I'm hoping he at least sticks on the practice squad given this team's depth at defensive tackle.
Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow both looked good and athletic yet again, and one or both is getting a roster spot. The story of the night at linebacker was clearly Robert James, even so.
James piled up seven tackles and looked extremely fluid doing so. Add in his special teams value and I think we're getting another year of RJ.
- Desmond Trufant had one costly (and frankly lame) roughing the passer penalty, but he also picked off Matt Scott. The extra snaps are the most important thing for Trufant right now as he tries to climb the learning curve as quickly as possible, especially with Drew Brees looming in Week 1.
- Robert Alford isn't just a hard worker, but a quick learner. A week after getting burned against the first team for the Titans, Alford was back out there picking off Chad Henne on the first drive. His athleticism will let him jump routes and make those kinds of plays, but he's still the fourth cornerback for the Falcons this season.
- Zeke Motta and Shann Schillinger each had a few tackles. I think Shann is the odd man out at safety for certain, with the potential that Charles Mitchell, Motta and Kemal Ishmael have, but he looked pretty good last night.
- Matt Bosher punts like his life depends on it. Perhaps it does.
- Besides not knowing which quarter it is, making several terrible calls and just generally being a lousy referee, Jeff Triplett was pretty good last night.
- While we're at it, let's agree never to talk about the fourth week of preseason past today, okay? These games are universally sloppy as hell. Even if Week 1 features some defensive miscues from the Falcons and Saints, it ought to be a major upgrade over this.
I don't know why I bother to do this.
Just for that one amazing sequence with the sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery/touchdown, I'm giving this to Jonathan Massaquoi. Don't let it go to your head, Chainsaw.
Your reaction to this week's game? Stay tuned for a roster cutdown open thread and some thoughts on the roster bubble in the next few hours!