The first victory of the Atlanta Falcons pre-season thus far was, shall we say, encouraging.
The Falcons showed middling acumen on offense early on and improved as the game went by, but the team certainly showed a lot better on defense. The first-team D pretty effortlessly shut down rookie Ryan Tannehill and showed well in the pass rush, and the secondary defensed plenty of passes. I'm extremely encouraged by the defense thus far in pre-season.
I missed the entire first half and haven't had time to catch up yet, so my recap on that front is going to be pretty limited. I'm counting on you guys to chip in a lot to the discussion there, and the guys following me will have a lot more on that. Needless to say, it didn't look all that pretty.
The second half was a vastly different story. Ryan drove down the field effortlessly, Dominique Davis had a great drive and the defense continued to clamp down hard on Miami. A 9-3 halftime lead wound up at 23-6.
After the jump, let's run it all down.
- Matt Ryan continues to hum along this pre-season. He had a little trouble keeping his nose clean in the first half thanks to the offensive line, but he led a nice scoring drive in the second half. There's no doubt in my mind that he's poised for a quality year.
- Dominique Davis continues to impress the hell out of me. He showed excellent touch on a 14 yarder to Lee Meisner and then showed impressive zip on a touchdown to Tim Toone.
- Julio Jones is still setting the world on fire. Four catches for 90 yards? I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few urine stains from opposing cornerbacks this season. He's just gotta work on his hands a bit.
- Roddy White remains extremely comfortable with Matt Ryan. That touchdown was purty.
- I would've said that Drew Davis and Kevin Cone were the easy favorites for the fifth receiver slot...but now Marcus Jackson and Tim Toone have impressed in back-to-back weeks. This battle's going to come down to the wire.
- Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez look like they'll be Ryan's outlets in the short passing game this season. Turner's showing surprisingly good hands this pre-season.
- Penalty aside, Lamar Holmes did pretty well in his first action of his Falcons career.
- Is Matt Bryant automatic? Yes. Yes he is.
- Matt Bosher punts well. If he can keep it going, he'll be one of the better punters in the NFL in 2012.
- Thomas DeCoud deflected passes, led the team in tackles and picked off Ryan Tannehill. If he's consistent enough, he could have a huge year.
- Speaking of huge years, William Moore crushes folks.
- The defensive line generated pressure throughout the game. Lawrence Sidbury and John Abraham each had a sack and a forced fumble, too, which should all but lock Sid into a spot in the defensive end rotation.
- Great effort by the defense in general. The Dolphins are no one's idea of a juggernaut, but holding a team to six points is impressive nonetheless.
- The starting offensive line was a mixed bag yet again. You guys can weigh in on this with more authority I can, but Ryan definitely was under some pressure.
- Chris Redman always manages to finish with ho-hum lines, but he's looking more and more like a third-stringer than a backup. Pre-season only means so much, but yeah.
- Dominique Franks desperately needs to separate himself from the competition as a punt returner. Instead, he averaged four yards on two punts, while Tim Toone averaged 10.5 each. He's having a poor pre-season, which is gravely disappointing given my expectations for him.
- The red-zone offense sputtered a couple of times. I'm not overly concerned just yet, but the Falcons will have to close in the regular season.
- I don't have much else to say on this front. Pretty nice game. Would like to see them handle the run a bit better.
Game MVP: Matt Ryan. Few quarterbacks have been as impressive this pre-season, and while that only means so much, he's got a terrific rapport with his receivers and obvious confidence.
Game Theme Song: Just hum something happy to yourself. Whatever it is, it'll fit.
One Thing To Take Away: The passing game is going to be hard to stop. Slow, yes. Stop, no.
Next Week: The Jacksonville Jaguars, who now feature Mike Mularkey as a head coach. Check out Big Cat Country for more.
Final Word: Win.