The final pre-season game has arrived, which means that every team can ignore their starters and focus strictly on which players are worthy of a roster spot. Following Saturday's loss to Miami, Atlanta may want to play every offensive lineman on their roster. The offensive line desperately needs to realign themselves as a unit. Even though it will be against a second-string Baltimore Ravens' defensive line, any type of morale boost could prove to be essential before the games start to matter. There are plenty of things to watch for during tomorrow night's game. This won't be a prototypical final pre-season game with minimal significance
Offensive line finding stability
Even though most starters don't play in the final game of pre-season, Atlanta has a peculiar situation on their hands. The offensive line was annihilated by Miami's star-studded defensive line. James Stone was the center of those struggles, yet Ryan Schraeder and Mike Person were major culprits as well. Schraeder's inability to fulfill assignments on outside runs was very concerning.
Dan Quinn has been adamant that the competition for both guard spots isn't over yet. Person has taken first-team reps through practice this week. That won't translate into anything significant, given how flexible Quinn has been with the depth chart. Nothing is more troubling than the offensive line at the moment. Jon Asamoah's demotion and Joe Hawley not playing with the first team last week has left fans gasping for answers. Baltimore likely won't play their starters, but it will still be vital for players such as Stone and Person to have strong performances. Any type of confidence booster will be needed before Monday night's challenge against Philadelphia's nasty front seven. The entire offensive line needs to play with a chip on their shoulder following Saturday's dreadful performance.
The Rex Grossman experience
We could construct a plethora of catchphrases when describing Rex Grossman's debut. Kyle Shanahan has always been an advocate for Grossman, which practically secures his roster spot. With T.J Yates having a horrific pre-season, it would take something drastic for Grossman to not make the cut. The well-travelled veteran has been erratic throughout his career. His decision-making has left several fanbases a lot to be desired. Attributes such as major starting quarterback experience and throwing power have kept him employed over the past few seasons.
It will be intriguing to see how Shanahan utilizes him. Conservative passes and rollouts seem to be the norm for Atlanta's backup quarterbacks this preseason. Grossman has a knack of constantly forcing the ball downfield. The entertainment value will certainly exceed your average final pre-season game. With the unstable backup quarterback situation, Grossman has a prime opportunity to stake his claim and keep himself relevant. How the former Bear takes command of the offense and maintains his accuracy will determine his placement on the depth chart.
Kevin White cementing his spot as the fifth cornerback
Besides running back, cornerback seems to be the most injury-prone position within the sport. Teams are constantly scrambling through their depth chart at some point of the regular season. The prospect of having three solid cover corners is something every coach dreams about every season. With Jalen Collins being extremely raw and Phillip Adams' shady past, the fifth cornerback could be pressed into action. Kevin White is the likely candidate to fulfill that role.
Many analysts were shocked that White went undrafted. The projected fifth round pick embraces putting his hands on wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. White was also constantly around the ball by recording 33 passes defensed as a three-year starter at TCU. While he's been caught out of position on a few occasions, it's been nowhere near as concerning as Dezmen Southward. The former third round pick has looked out of place at cornerback through showing poor footwork and not being able to adjust in man coverage. As much as the front office wants him to succeed, his play in pre-season hasn't justified being anywhere near the 53-man roster. A season on the practice squad could be looming. White looks capable of excelling in man coverage, despite being undersized at five-foot-nine.
Battle for the last pass-rusher spot
There has been some buzz about Kroy Biermann potentially not making the team. The coaching staff and front office genuinely love his relentless motor. It would be surprising to see the long-time Falcon released, despite having several pass-rushers on the roster. Biermann can also contribute on special teams, which the coaching staff will appreciate greatly. This predicament features Tyler Staar and Stansly Maponga. What will the coaches favor more between having a high motor (Starr) or being athletically gifted (Maponga)?
Both players have made their mark from Maponga's two sacks to Starr forcing a deflected pass from Matt Moore that led to an interception. Maponga has struggled staying healthy, along with being a liability against the run. His raw power on multiple bull rushes has left a lasting impression through both of his respective sacks. Starr is slowly improving his technique to combine with his relentless work ethic. It may come down to who can contribute more on special teams efficiently. Neither player will be utilized very often throughout the regular season. They are simply players for the future that could develop into valuable rotational pass-rushers. Maponga will likely have a slight edge, but Starr has the attributes that Quinn loves to see from his players. Not many players have worked harder throughout OTA's and training camp.
Last showcase for the fullbacks
Many fans have forgotten about this training camp battle, due to far more pressing issues surrounding Atlanta. The rotation of both full backs has been perplexing. Colin Mooney started with the first team against the Jets. After making multiple key blocks and contributing with a sixty-yard catch, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would receive more opportunities. Patrick DiMarco ended up receiving the majority of snaps against Miami.
As we enter the final week of pre-season, this battle couldn't be more undistinguishable. DiMarco has been unspectacular throughout the past two seasons. His blocking has rarely stood out from a positive perspective. Mooney is fairly inexperienced, yet adds an intriguing element to the offense. Both players should receive an equal amount of playing time to justify their claim towards becoming a starter. Only one fullback will remain on their roster.