With more than 24 hours having passed since the game, it's time to sort out how the Falcons are affected going forward. I want to start by countering some of the assumptions that are quickly cementing themselves in the Falcon fan imagination.
I've narrowed it down to three battles that some are concluding after one 34-10 loss to the Bengals, which I think is way too premature.
For some, this one has been decided since the two were drafted. It is reasonable to prefer Robert Alford to Desmond Trufant. It is not reasonable to conclude that Alford is starting over Trufant after one preseason game. Full stop.
Trufant did get trucked over on one play, and if you're looking for a reason to disqualify him, that probably was the last thing you noted last night. But he also looked solid in coverage and flew all over the field trying to make tackles, showing the same kind of stellar effort that got Paul Worrilow so much praise last night. The problem was, he only played a couple of drives, and he didn't fill up the stat sheet.
Alford looked quite good against reserves and is making this competition a dogfight, but as Jeanna Thomas has noted, Trufant and Alford have both had their struggles and triumphs in practice. Like it or not, Trufant's still the favorite, and he will be until he faceplants and Alford rises waaaaay up.
If that sounds overly negative, it's not. Long-term, Trufant and Alford are both going to be exciting players, and Alford has the potential to be the best cornerback on the roster sooner rather than later. We're going to need to see more before we declare that for 2013.
Lamar Holmes, Failure
You can at least understand Alford vs. Trufant, because Trufant hasn't distinguished himself and Alford has looked good. Calling for Holmes' head? That's strange.
The Falcons don't have an alternative. Forget what you've heard about Ryan Schraeder: He's not a realistic candidate to start outside. The Falcons don't appear to be moving Garrett Reynolds to tackle. Barring a free agent signing, Holmes is the starting right tackle, and there's a reason for that.
Despite some real struggles in run blocking last night, Holmes was solid in pass protection. More than one analyst reviewing the game noticed this:
In this series, for the most part Holmes has shut Hunt down sans one play— Zach Kidd (@GBBZach) August 9, 2013
Those run blocking concerns are real, but the Falcons will give Holmes more time to work on them. If he can be average in run blocking and above average in pass blocking, which seems reasonable, he's likely to win the job outright.
There's still time for the Falcons to add a veteran and they could do so in a week or two, depending on how Holmes performs from here on out. It's too early to hit the panic button on the hulking Holmes, however.
Nobody's A Lock At Linebacker Just Yet
Stephen Nicholas isn't necessarily on the hot seat, but the Falcons are pushing him hard with these young guys, UDFAs and (yes, even) Robert James. James looked stellar on special teams last night and solid enough in regular snaps, Joplo Bartu looked good and Paul Worrilow obviously impressed. Nick Clancy and Brian Banks didn't get a chance to do a lot, but we've got a few weeks left and you can bet they'll get their shots.
Given the relative lack of top-flight talent here, this is one of the few positions where things seem truly wide open. I wouldn't be stunned if the depth chart isn't settled until final cuts, and you shouldn't be either.
Other battles you think are being settled by fans/analysts prematurely?