When you're looking for the starters to excel in the third preseason game, sometimes you get a mix of disappointment and elation. That was the case for the Falcons tonight, for certain.
The offense suffered from poor offensive line play against an extremely talented Miami Dolphins front, while the defense did terrific work and got real pressure against a Dolphins offense that should be improved from a year ago. It was a decidedly mixed bag for the third preseason game, and most of us will be excited about the defense's progression and wary of what the line's going to look like when the Falcons play the Eagles. The questionable fumble call to effectively end the night really summed everything up.
Here's some notes from tonight's game.
Offensive line flounders
With Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward getting blown up in the backfield, Matt Ryan under pressure and absorbing sacks, you had to figure the line wasn't performing well. You would have been right.
James Stone was one of the worst linemen on the field, sadly, but the entire line just couldn't give Matt Ryan a clean pocket. Teams with terrific defensive tackles are going to be able to wreak some level of havoc against the Falcons, but this was more or less a worst case scenario, taking what had been a very effective Atlanta offense and utterly neutering it. Matt Ryan was actually chased out of the game in the second quarter, which speaks volumes. You can point fingers at the strength of Miami's defense or the absence of Julio Jones, but the bottom line is that they can't play this poorly without the offense suffering in the regular season. Even against a front as talented as the Dolphins.
Unfortunately, because this was the third preseason game and the one best equipped to test the Falcons' starters, our anxiety levels about the state of the line will be elevated until the regular season (and potentially well into it).
If the offense was forgettable, especially in the first half with most of the starters in, the defense was exemplary. The Dolphins managed one long touchdown drive, but were otherwise routinely stymied for both the first and second teams. Credit a revitalized pass rush, stout run defense and standout performances from Vic Beasley (again), Adrian Clayborn (again), and O'Brien Schofield. The Joplo Bartu pick and return was probably enough to get him a very, very long look from the team in the fourth preseason game, at minimum.
The question is how much of that will translate to the regular season, but at least I'm not dreading finding out.
Weirdly for a team with Devin Hester, the Falcons started from horrible field position most of the night. Combine that with Julio Jones' and Roddy White's absences, plus Mike Person subbing in for Joe Hawley, and you can begin to gin up some excuses for the offense, if you're so inclined. I wouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt tonight, personally.
On the other hand, the defense was down William Moore and Desmond Trufant and managed to be stingy, so kudos to them.
T.J. Yates Is Probably Gone
Sean Renfree has practice squad eligibility. Rex Grossman knows Kyle Shanahan's offense. That probably explains why Yates got such a lengthy audition, and while his supporting cast hardly helped him, he had another mediocre game for the Falcons until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, when he caught fire and started connecting. There's a decent chance he's gone in the first round of cuts, with Grossman and Renfree formally duking it out in Week 4 of preseason. If he does stick around, he'll need a stellar last week to survive the cutdown to 53.
Your impressions of tonight's game?