The Atlanta Falcons will play the Baltimore Ravens in a preseason clash of contenders on Thursday night. The question for you, dear reader, is what you should be watching.
There's a lot here. If you're an avid fantasy player, you might want to keep an eye on Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, among others. If you're interested in getting a glimpse of the starting offense in action, even a pale imitation of the regular season version, you can get that. And if you're interested in the down-the-roster battles, there's more than a few of those.
I'm going to primarily concentrate on the latter here. Here's what you should watch for Falcons-Ravens.
The Linebackers Duke It Out
Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and Pat Schiller got plenty of chances last Thursday. Worrilow was excellent, Bartu looked good and Schiller looked decent. In the interest of learning more about what they've got at the position, the Falcons are likely to switch things up a bit.
Expect all three of the players I just mentioned to get quality playing time, but Brian Banks and Nick Clancy may lead the pack. Banks is looking less and less likely to get a shot, but he should at least get in the game before the fourth quarter. Clancy is listed as a second stringer in the new depth chart and should be given plenty of snaps to see if he can hang with Worrilow and Bartu.
These battles aren't going to shake themselves out in one game, but it's looking increasingly likely that 1-2 of these UDFAs are going to stick on the final roster. It's worth watching to gain a sense of which one(s) that might be.
Lamar Holmes And The Line
The immediate reaction to Lamar Holmes last Thursday was that he was playing pretty lousy. A second viewing had many of us altering that opinion a bit.
Holmes is the one we're all watching, but it's worth remembering that right guard isn't settled yet. Garrett Reynolds is the frontrunner, of course, but Joe Hawley, Harland Gunn and Phillipkeith Manley are all at least in the mix. Holmes has a nominal challenge from Ryan Schraeder, but the former is the favorite unless he faceplants.
Still, for any of us to feel comfortable with Holmes starting, we're going to need to see week-to-week growth. He's going to get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth in preseason, and a quality game against the Ravens would go a long way.
Dominique Davis Attempts A Rebound
It's fair to say that Dominique Davis was not very good against the Bengals. You don't want to sink too much into one preseason performance, but it's worth remembering that Davis hung around last year because of his quality preseason performances, and we have no regular season play to go on.
Some have suggested that the Falcons need to go get a veteran quarterback, but I'm not hitting the panic button after one game. With multiple quarters of run likely for him tomorrow night, though, I'd like to see more from Davis, and I'd like to see more from his receivers. The lack of separation did not help him.
Here's a look at what a few of your fellow Falcon fans will be looking for!
The Pass Rush Attacks The Ravens
The Ravens have some quality pieces along their offensive line, though it isn't the league's best unit. I'd like to see the Falcons attacking that line from the get-go, seeing if Jonathan Massaquoi can repeat his performance from the Bengals game and seeing if others can step up.
Ideally, the Falcons would execute on that oft-quoted Mike Nolan philosophy of having 10 guys with 4 sacks. They can start by pulling together a quality pass rush in preseason.
Here's a collection of people on Twitter
@TheFalcoholic 1. Performance of RG, RT 2. Linebackers 3. Performance of our 7th rnd safeties, who impressed last week.— The DW (@TheWalkerman) August 13, 2013
@TheFalcoholic see if Banks gets more playing time, Holmes, and new corners Trufant & Alford.— Kelly Prescott (@Kelly26nicole) August 13, 2013
@TheFalcoholic Run blocking and Steven Jackson, LB and pass rush— Malvin Sanders (@MalvinSanders) August 13, 2013
@TheFalcoholic Dominique Davis, to see if we need veteran help at QB.— Dustin Smith (@DustinCSmith) August 13, 2013