If you were fortunate enough to watch the first few series of the Falcons vs Jets game, you were treated to an unusual dose of optimism from the offense and the defense (with a nod to special teams as well). Granted, this is still the preseason and all impressions should be kept in perspective, but this is clearly a different Falcons team than we've seen the past few years. With that, here are 3 key takeaways from the game.
We might have a pass rush
Early and often in this game, the Falcons defense was causing fits for the Jets offense. While this play below didn't net a sack, it still got the team off the field on third down and it was a beautiful sight as the pocket just utterly collapses around Fitzpatrick:
In particular, the combination of Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley was dominant tonight. While Beasley didn't record any stats on paper, it was clear he was impacting the game. Adrian Clayborn was a man-child on Friday, displaying a quick first step and disruptive power. Veteran Jonathan Babineaux even got in on the action, nearly decapitating Chris Ivory in the backfield.
There is still a good bit of football to be played - and this Jets OL isn't anything to write home about - but the early signs are encouraging. When you consider that this was a defense that would have made any offense look spectacular the last two years, this is a notable improvement worth monitoring.
This offense could be very dangerous
On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan and the first string offense continued to look efficient and in mid-season form. Fullback Collin Mooney took a pass and rumbled for over 50 yards on the first drive, which ended with a TD run by Terron Ward. The second drive was setup by a beautiful punt return by Devin Hester, with Ryan able to find Leonard Hankerson on the crossing route.
While Julio was unstoppable last week, he didn't touch the ball against the Jets (he did draw a holding call in the end zone which extended the first drive). There's little doubt that he drew extra attention from the defense, but this offense was still able to move the ball quickly and efficiently by involving other guys. This was also an offense without it's top 3 running backs and without veteran Roddy White on the field. Yet, they still made it look easy. If there are any concerns, it would still be with the running game, but I'm going to reserve judgement until Freeman and Coleman are back on the field.
Again, it's just the preseason - but this is an offense that looks to be a perfect fit for Ryan. Let's hope they keep it up over the next couple of weeks.
Individuals are elevating their game
When Dan Quinn was brought in, the hope was that he would bring a spark that would help individual players elevate their games. So far, that has definitely appeared to be the case. Here are just a few guys who look to be playing significantly better under the new coaching staff:
- Paul Worrilow: shedding blocks last week, playing good coverage this week. The third year MLB no longer looks lost on the field.
- Jonathan Babineaux: in a snap limited role, the veteran has looked like a 25 year old again.
- Leonard Hankerson: possibly one of the best free agent pickups for the Falcons this off-season
- Adrian Clayborn: former first round pick written off by the Bucs who has shown flashes of dominance early
- James Stone: from backup center to starting LG, the 2nd year lineman has impressed
- Phillip Adams: a journeyman CB who is our likely nickel CB for the year
If Quinn and his staff can continue to develop these guys and get the most out of them, this is a team that will be able to compete every week. It's a nice change from the previous regime, which seemed to forego player development in recent years.