The final score tells us that the Falcons and Ravens were pretty evenly matched in the first pre-season game of 2012. That's certainly true...if we're talking about second and third stringers.
For the first quarter, when the Falcons had their first-team defense and offense in, the Falcons went up 7-0. This may not seem like a huge score, but the way they got there was: Crisp passing, quality ground game, stifling defense and a quality special teams performance. It was everything I hoped to see from the Falcons this season, all in one convenient first quarter package.
If the Falcons are going to play that well on a fairly regular basis, well...we've got ourselves a football team that should have no problem getting a winning record, at minimum. There's many reasons to believe they'll be significantly better than that, but I try not to get overly jazzed about pre-season.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game didn't go quite as smoothly. The backups struggled to contain the Ravens' offense and the Falcons' O was lackluster, to say the least. Thank goodness the points don't matter in this one.
After the jump, gather 'round while I run it down.
- Julio Jones is an absolute monster. In just one quarter of football, he reeled in six catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown. That was against the Ravens' first team defense, who looked like they had absolutely no idea how to cover him. With Dirk Koetter's aggressive play-calling and his otherworldly skill level, Jones could have an all-time kind of season this year. Seriously.
- Matt Ryan's interception was a little bone-headed, but otherwise he looked confident, efficient and comfortable in the offense already. Koetter also looked like he was giving our cerebral quarterback a little leeway to run things. It paid off early, and his chemistry with Roddy White and Julio Jones is excellent. Speaking of White, he was typically astounding at getting away from coverage.
- Jacquizz Rodgers looked smooth in all phases. He looked pretty decent as the kick returner, very good as the running back—loved him muscling in a two-yard touchdown run—and had a nice little three yard grab. It's a small sample size, but you can certainly see some of the promise that has made Smitty rave about the guy.
- I know his numbers look mediocre, but the most impressive quarterback besides Matt Ryan was definitely Dominique Davis. He had at least two occasions where receivers couldn't reel in his passes, but he flashed a strong arm, nice athleticism and better field awareness than either John Parker Wilson or Chris Redman. Keep an eye on him.
- The offensive line had its issues, yes, but by and large they looked good enough in the first quarter to put my mind at ease a bit. We'll get to the backups in a little bit.
- Both punters looked good last night. Zimmerman has virtually no chance to make the final roster, of course, but I was impressed once more with Matt Bosher's leg and his ability to guide the ball inside the 20. He'll be a huge help on special teams in 2012.
- Do I even need to tell you that Matt Bryant was automatic?
- The Falcons are clearly counting on Kroy Biermann to be part of the defensive end rotation. He made them feel good about that decision with a timely sack.
- Speaking of sacks, Akeem Dent got one! He looked a little lost in coverage at times and is now hurt, which stinks, but that right there was a huge positive.
- I hate to admit it, but Robert James had a very nice sack himself. The team can point to that when they inevitably keep him on the roster.
- Jonathan Massaquoi got turned around a couple of times, but he had two tackles for losses and looked very sharp. With his potential, he'll compete for snaps in year one.
Robert McClain had a very up-and-down game, making a few costly mistakes. He may have saved his hide with a nice pick in the fourth quarter, though. Credit where it's due.
- While the starters were in, at least, the team's new coordinators showed off an actual screen pass, a couple of nice blitzes and plenty of creativity in general. I'm virtually salivating over that.
- I'm legitimately concerned about the backup quarterback situation. Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson haven't shown particularly well in pre-season or practice, and I fear we'd be in real trouble if Ryan went down. Neither impressed me tonight.
- Injuries were a serious problem last night. Bradie Ewing might be done for the season—which is pretty heartbreaking, given that we've seen this multiple times before—Akeem Dent got a concussion and a couple of other guys got banged up. That's a very bad sign this early in pre-season, and hopefully that trend doesn't continue. I hope Mike Cox is ready.
- I could pick through each position, but why bother? The backups on defense and offensively were generally kind of ho-hum. It's too soon to say whether the team has a depth problem, but for one game at least, the Falcons didn't look so great once the starters came off the field.
- Replacements refs. Same as the old refs.
Game MVP: Julio Jones. You don't dominate a quarter that thoroughly without getting some recognition for it, especially in a pre-season game.
Game Theme Song: It seemed appropriate.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons' starters look awfully impressive. The backups may need a couple coats of varnish. Ignore the fact I just said two things.
Next Week: The mighty Cincinnati Bengals await our heroic Falcons. Check out Cincy Jungle for a lot more.
Final Word: JulioJones.