Today brings the last game of the pre-season, a tilt against the talented Baltimore Ravens.
The last, huge round of cuts is taking place mere days after this game, so this is the coaching staff's final chance to get a close look at those who are straddling a job at the moment. Expect to see the starters getting one more tune-up—hopefully one that doesn't involve the Falcons getting smacked around by the Ravens in a repeat of the Steelers game—and then plenty of chances for those on the bubble to make their cases.
As such, there should be a few interesting matchups to watch, as always. I've climbed the top of the highest mountain and meditated until the best of these came into my brain like wailing spirits. Or, you know, something remarkably similar to that.
Check 'em out after the jump. For more, be sure to visit Baltimore Beatdown.
The Secondary vs. Ravens Passing Game
Critically important for our collective peace of mind.
The Falcons have had a shaky time in coverage thus far this pre-season. Dunta Robinson has been nicked up, Dominique Franks and Chris Owens have had their struggles against opposing wide receivers. Lot of young dudes there, not to mention Thomas DeCoud, who has been shaky, and William Moore, who hits like a train and covers like one, too.
Brent Grimes and Robinson are about the only sure things in Atlanta at the moment. The Falcons really need to see Franks do more than tackle well. I think he should be the nickel back, but the Falcons haven't decided that particular race. A strong performance to end pre-season would make a huge difference not just for Franks, but the entire secondary.
Even if the Falcons manage to sign James Sanders, it's unlikely he'll play right now. This is the last great test, and the Ravens have plenty of weapons to push the team's corners and safeties.This is the chance for Rafael Bush, Darrin Walls and guys like them to make a case for a roster spot.
Matt Bosher vs. Ravens Special Teams
Bosher hasn't impressed thus far in 2011. He's averaged under 40 yards a punt and while he's shown flashes of a quality leg, he's yet to really boom much of anything. Ken Parrish is gone, though, so Bosher just needs to step up.
He'll get his chance against the Ravens, who have one of the best returners in the league in David Reed. Pin him deep in Ravens territory and he dispels some of our concerns. Fail to do so, or fail to get any kicks past the goal line, and there's going to be some justifiable questions about his ability to get the job done.
So this is an important one for Bosher. Let's hope he rises to the occasion.
Ground Game vs. The Ravens Defense
The Falcons have Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers in the fold, but by all accounts, they haven't yet decided whether they're carrying four backs.
The Ravens are, as I've noted, talented in the defensive front seven. They have some quality depth. That means a challenge for Rodgers, who could put the finishing touches on an impressive pre-season. It also means another good test for Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith.
Frankly, their performances in this game could determine not just which one makes the roster, but if either of them do. Johnson has been ineffective and skittish behind the line all pre-season long. Smith has been up and down, mixing a handful of bad plays with a handful of good ones. I believe he has higher upside, but he's still got something to show.
Watch forboth to get serious carries in this one.
Name your matchups.