As is standard for a preseason game, the Falcons starters got limited playing time to give the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate players competing for remaining roster spots. For the starters, the first preseason game is primarily about knocking off some of the rust from the offseason. Preseason differs from regular season primarily in that there's no specific game-planning against the opponent, and that was pretty obvious last night.
The Falcons did lose to the Bengals last night 34-10. It wasn't pretty. But the performances of the Falcons starters against the Bengals starters paints a slightly different picture.
Matt Ryan finished his day completing six of nine passes for 89 yards and no touchdowns, and he did so without Julio Jones on the field. Harry Douglas looked exceptional on his one reception for 42 yards, most of which came after the catch. Earlier this week, Drew Davis took first team snaps in Julio Jones' absence, and last night he looked great in first team reps, including a 31 yard catch from Matt Ryan. Atlanta's starters had a couple of missed opportunities, particularly an incomplete short pass to Harry Douglas and a completion to Roddy White in the red zone that was short of a first down, which could have changed the course of the game.
The first team run game was a bit of a mixed bag. Jackson mainly looked good bouncing outside--something that wasn't much of an option for Michael Turner--and he looked less good going up the middle right into Cincinnati's stout defense. Run blocking wasn't particularly impressive in those situations.
On defense, the first team didn't look bad. Osi Umenyiora and Corey Peters stood out to me as being solid against the run. Desmond Trufant didn't look like a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he did look reasonable for a rookie who is adjusting to the speed of the game. Cincinnati's starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, finished the day with three completions--42.9% of his attempts--for 37 yards and no touchdowns. Atlanta's first team defense allowed 14 of Cincinnati's 230 rushing yards.
As far as special teams, Robert James stood out early in the game for his efforts. Matt Bryant was reliable in his limited contributions, and Matt Bosher was spectacular. Harry Douglas appears to be the go-to punt returner at this point, and he had one fair catch and one 11-yard return. Jacquizz Rodgers appears to have retained the kick return job, and he had one kick return for 24 yards to start the game.
If the game had ended when the starters from both teams left the game, Atlanta would have walked away with a 3-0 victory.
What do you think about how Atlanta's starters performed last night? Do you think they should have had more playing time, or less, or was the time they spent on the field just right? What do you expect to see from the starters next week?