If you can take one thing from a pre-season game, it's the guys who truly separate themselves from the pack, the rookies who rise above and the veterans who come ready to prove something new. It's those kinds of things that make pre-season games worth following closely.
This was not really one of those games, sadly. The Falcons lost a squeaker and played a solid game almost all the way around, but standout performers were few and far between. Our starters looked as good as ever, though, and a couple of guys did raise my eyebrows in a, well, eyebrow-raising fashion.
Join me after the jump, and we'll explore Saturday's fracas.
- Hard not to mention Michael Turner, who savagely gashed his way through the Lions' rush defense for 63 yards and a TD on a mere six carries. It's probably going to be a very good season for Turner, and seeing him looking fresh and aggressive after a season with a heavy workload was good for my soul.
- Eric Weems didn't have eye-popping numbers, but he helped himself with a pair of grabs and a 34 yard punt return. Guys hoping to win a roster spot in a crowded back end of the receiver rotation are going to have to provide special teams value, and Weems still appears the most likely to do that. Honorable mention to Chandler Williams, who was pretty good on both kick returns and decent on his own punt return.
- The quarterbacking in general was decent, but Matt Ryan did his job efficiently (as expected) and John Parker Wilson completed all three of his passes (unexpectedly). For Ryan, it's just another day at the big green office, but JPW is competing for a roster spot and definitely helped himself today.
- Roddy White didn't look the least bit rusty, hauling in three catches for 29 yards and getting plenty of love from Ryan. I'm not the least bit concerned about his off-season progression even with the holdout.
- Backup linebacker Tony Gilbert, who mostly played special teams when he was under Mike Smith on the Jaguars, picked a pass and ran it all the way back, flashing a little big play potential in the meantime. His special teams value almost guarantees he'll make the final roster, and doing something on actual defense has never hurt.
- Thomas Johnson, who I mistakenly called Tommy Jackson the other day because I'm a gosh darn moron, came up with the game's lone sack and looked comfortable out there. With Trey Lewis looking less than excellent on this day, Johnson could earn a leg up on getting in the rotation if he continues to play well.
- Jason Elam was excellent as usual, hitting two field goals, but it was Michael Koenen who really drew my attention. A 45.8 yards per punt average is very, very good, and it appears he's only going to continue to get better.
- D.J. Shockley really didn't look very good out there. He completed only three of his eight passes and seemed to be a little skittish in the pocket, which has been a common issue. Chris Redman also looked a little ill at ease; both quarterbacks' issues might have had something to do with the fact that the line wasn't stellar today.
- Trying to separate from one another in the race for the third running back spot, Jason Snelling and Thomas Brown each turned in pretty mediocre outings. Jason Snelling punched a touchdown in, true, but he also only had 4 yards on 3 carries. Thomas Brown got far more carries--11 in all--but only came up with 19 yards. This game certainly isn't going to decide anything.
- The defense was, as a whole, somewhat less than inspiring. Potential third running back Aaron Brown had a field day against us, and rookie Matthew Stafford and perennial backup Drew Stanton both looked pretty good for much of the game while passing for us. It's way too early to get concerned about this and it's also instructive to remember that they were doing their work against our backups and their backups. But, and there's always a but, it would've been nice to see a lot more out of guys in the secondary not named Chris Owens, who looked pretty comfortable against the run already.
- Roddy White ran once for zero yards! HE'S A BUST!!!!
Game MVP: Not hard to hand this one to Michael Turner, since he looked like far and away the most impressive Falcon on the field. This won't be the last one of these he wins from The Falcoholic in 2009.
Game Theme Song: Given the distinctly average nature of this game, let's go with a distinctly average song.
"Love Isn't Always On Time" by Foreigner. Oops. "Hold The Line" by Toto, I mean.
One Thing To Take Away: It's the pre-season, so you can't read too heavily into this stuff. Our starters look as good as ever, though.
Final Word: Average.