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Three Key Matchups In The Falcons-Jaguars Game

It's pre-season round two when the Atlanta Falcons take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in sunny Florida. David Garrard! Matt Ryan! FOOTBALL!

The Jaguars should provide a bit more of a hurdle for the Falcons' first-team offense than the hapless Dolphins, who Ryan and Julio Jones basically eviscerated last Friday night. The Jags bring a first-rate ground game and a (potentially) hotly contested quarterback battle into this one, so they should also test the Falcons' defense a tad more than Chad Henne did.

So that alone would make the game worth watching. To add a little more juice to the matchup, you still have a ton of competition for roster spots. Once the backups get in the game, there ought to be an awful lot of intensity, given what's at stake. It's also a preview of the Jaguars before a regular season game that matters a lot more.

After the jump, I break down three matchups that I think will be key. For more, visit our friends at Big Cat Country.

Falcons Quarterbacks vs. Jaguars Defense

The Jags haven't been able to muster much of a pass rush in recent years, but they have a bit of an underrated secondary. Rashean Mathis looked he might flirt with elite status a few times in his career, and he's now in a contract year.

Okay, that's just one guy. But my point is that the secondary is solid, and I really want to see Matt Ryan continue to slice and dice his way through solid secondaries. I also want to see how Chris Redman and Adam Froman fare against the team's backups, especially with Froman needing to make up a ton of ground to even have a real shot at the practice squad.

The quarterbacks' fortunes also affect our receivers. Julio Jones needs to keep kicking ass—just because, basically—while guys like Brandyn Harvey have to keep showing something to make the final roster. The passing game is one to watch.

Jaguars Quarterbacks vs. Falcons Secondary

Let's flip our first matchup and look at the Jaguars quarterbacks.

David Garrard has been severely underrated for the duration of his career. He's not a great quarterback, but he's got nearly a 62 percent completion rate for his career and an 89-54 touchdown to interception ratio. Throughout his career, he's rarely had anyone of an elite caliber to throw to.

But Garrard is now 33. The Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert to be his eventual replacement, and he's a prototype pocket passer with surprising athleticism. There appears to be a full-blown competition going now, and Gabbert could very well win it.

So both quarterbacks will bring their A games in this one. The secondary will get a nice challenge in this one because of it. That's especially good for Dominique Franks and Chris Owens, who are "competing" for the nickel slot. And by competing, I mean Franks has basically won it.

Falcons Defense vs. Rashad Jennings

Speaking of defensive matchups, the Falcons will have their hands full with Rashad Jennings.

Jennings will get extra run because Maurice Jones-Drew isn't playing in this one, and that's bound to be an interesting matchup. Jennings is fast, dangerous and can catch out of the backfield, so the Falcons will have their hands full with him.

Since he's likely to play against defensive backups, Jennings will provide a true challenge for some of the guys trying to make the team, too. And if he doesn't, speedy Deji Karim will.

What will you be looking out for?

It was called to my attention that Jennings is concussed and not playing in this game. That's something I ought to have known, but hey, no sleep makes Dave Choate something something.

Suggest a third matchup that you think will be key!