The Atlanta Falcons rookie class didn't play a major role in the Falcons' 37-34 triumph over the New Orleans Saints, but a couple of players had noteworthy performances.
I'll be putting together one of these report cards after each week of the regular season, but with the way the Falcons used their class on Sunday, you'd better get used to seeing a lot of incomplete grades. Just the way it goes when you're not Jake Matthews or the fantastic Devonta Freeman.
To the report!
LT Jake Matthews
Matthews looked solid against the Saints' defensive front before going down with an injury to his ankle, which cost him the rest of the game. Tough to say how he would have held up throughout the entire game, but the early returns were extremely promising in my eyes.
You don't expect a rookie tackle to be stellar Week 1 of his first year, but I was encouraged by Matthews.
DE/DT Ra'Shede Hageman
Hageman got just 15 snaps on defense and six on special teams and didn't get on the stat sheet. He was quiet in general, but these aren't really enough snaps to judge a player most expect to be a project.
FS Dezmen Southward
Southward got one special teams snap and did not get on the stat sheet. He'll be used sparingly for a while, so get used to seeing this grade under his name.
RB Devonta Freeman
The listed fourth back on the depth chart had a small but important role in this game, with his tough running setting up the early short touchdown pass to Roddy White. He finished the game with 15 yards on two carries and 28 yards on two receptions, and probably earned himself a longer look in the process. I'm very high on Freeman's potential.
ILB Prince Shembo
Shembo got just ten snaps on defense behind Joplo Bartu, but it's worth noting that he took 18 on special teams, where he'll likely be quite active this season. In what may be a familiar refrain, he didn't get on the stat sheet. I'm not going to give a dude a grade based purely on special teams help, so hey.
CB Ricardo Allen
One-time reminder here as well. Allen is on the practice squad at the moment.
ILB Marquis Spruill
Just as a reminder, Spruill is out for the year. We'll see him again in 2016.
ILB Yawin Smallwood
Final one-time reminder. Smallwood did not make the team or the practice squad, to my chagrin.
OLB Tyler Starr
Starr was a gameday inactive.
As I mentioned above, the only players who had a real impact on this game were Matthews before his injury and Freeman. Hageman and Shembo got some snaps, but not enough to make a major difference, which is reflected in their lack of grades.
We should see more from these guys next week against the Bengals. Your thoughts?