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Falcons vs. Titans 2015: How Tennessee has changed since the teams' preseason matchup

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons usually only meet their preseason opponents once or maybe twice in the regular season, so those matchups a rare opportunity to see how teams evolve over several games.

Of course, Atlanta won in preseason against the Titans, intercepting Marcus Mariota for the first time, coming out firing in the passing game, and generally doing astonishingly good work as a first unit before giving way to the starters.

Tennessee has changed, however, and it's time to take a look at just how.

  • They just lost their starting center, Brian Schwenke, for the rest of the season. They'll be starting a sixth round rookie, which is a huge, unfortunate blow for that team, and a huge opportunity for the interior of the Falcons' defensive line.
  • They don't have David Cobb, who turned in an impressive, bruising performance against the Falcons, albeit largely against backups. The ground game features an unimpressive Bishop Sankey, plodding starter Antonio Andrews, and scatback Dexter McCluster, and the Falcons should have little trouble shutting that down with their excellent run defense. Sankey and McCluster are more of a concern through the air, frankly.
  • They have Delanie Walker now. The Falcons didn't see him in preseason, but he's a capable pass-catching tight end putting up solid numbers in this offense, and Atlanta is coming off a week where aging wizard Ben Watson absolutely destroyed them. I'm casting a wary eye on Walker in this one.
  • Derrick Morgan has blossomed. He looked fine in his limited opportunities against Atlanta, but he's gone from a pretty good complementary pass rusher to one of the league's most dangerous men off the edge thus far in 2015, and that could make for a long day for an offensive line that is suddenly scuffling in pass protection.
  • The run defense looked solid in preseason, but it has come undone in the regular season, providing one of the league's leakiest units. The same pass defense the Falcons eviscerated in preseason is now among the league's best in yards per game, too. Go figure.
  • Ken Whisenhunt was not be running out of town on the rails when last we met, but he certainly is on the hot seat right now. An ugly loss to Atlanta might even serve as his swan song in Tennessee.
The Falcons are going to have an easier time on defense than they did against New Orleans, but the offense is going to face some legitimately talented players and a competent pass rush, which is no bueno. While the Titans are a 1-4 team that looks a little more banged up and shaky than it did in preseason, they're capable of playing better football. We'll hope the Falcons are up to the task of dispatching them Sunday.