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Falcons vs. Redskins recap: Atlanta gears up, wins its first preseason game of 2016

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The Falcons win, and we’re (reasonably) happy with both the outcome and the performances.

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta wanted to come out swinging in the first week of preseason, and they...sort of did.

The defense was solid until very late in the game, which is a good sign considering that we’re mostly talking about third-stringers at that point, while the offense sputtered early before getting going with Matt Schaub and Sean Renfree at the helm. The upshot is that we saw a pretty typical preseason performance, one that was uneven, told us very little about the state of the Falcons franchise, but did give us some insight into who might stand out enough to earn roles with this team. They were, unsurprisingly, mostly young guys getting extended run.

Where do the Falcons go from here? In a literal sense, to Cleveland to face the Browns, who have a very different team than Washington (arguably a considerably worse one). In the less literal sense, they’re likely to use this first game as proof that some of the camp standouts deserve a genuine shot, which is great news for players like De’Vondre Campbell and Aldrick Robinson who have been impressive since June.

Full disclosure: We had a minor family medical issue at the Choate house, so I missed a pretty big chunk of this game. Just keep in mind that many of these observations between the second and third quarter are second hand.

The Good

  • Let’s start with the single most impressive play of the night, J.D. McKissic’s 101 yard return. There’s a legitimate opening at both returner spots with Devin Hester out of the picture, McKissic has been impressive in camp, and that’s the kind of play that is going to force the coaching staff to take a longer look at you. Maybe he can hang on as the last wide receiver and returner.

The offense sort of lurched to life after most of the starters left the game, which is one of those weird quirks of preseason. Aldrick Robinson continues to make the most of his chances (3 receptions, 118 yards), Matt Schaub looked about as crisp as he has in years, and Brandon Wilds showed a little shiftiness and power in between some listless runs. I’m not sure what to make of most of that, outside of Robinson’s continued excellence as a deep threat (and the roster spot that is probably going to come with it.

Oh, I’ll spare another thought for Wilds. I said before that Ward is no lock to make this roster, and while Wilds’ line wasn’t super impressive by the end of the night, he showed enough to get a real shot at the third running back gig.

  • There are plenty of fans nervous about what Vic Beasley is going to provide this year, but I saw good signs last night. He still hasn’t developed a tremendous spin move just yet, but he looks bigger, got pressure on a handful of occasions in his brief playing time, and should be much better when teams also have to fear the likes of Derrick Shelby and Dwight Freeney.
  • Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell already look like a terrific duo for Atlanta. Their speed and skill were evident in this one, and they combined for eight tackles. I’ve said before and will repeat that there would be growing pains with both starting, but I firmly believe both should start in 2016.
  • When you’re a reserve, you’re fighting for a roster spot, and on defense a few players stood out. Nordly Capi looked very strong, albeit against deep backups. Cory Johnson out of Kentucky had a sack in the middle of the defensive line, and Ivan McLennan (one of my sleeper picks for the roster, at least pre-Dwight Freeney) put the game on ice with a big sack of Nate Sudfeld very late in the game.

The Ugly

  • Nick Rose is the sole kicker competing with Matt Bryant, and his 39 yard miss near the end of the game probably ensured that he won’t overtake the ageless wonder.
  • The offense really looked punchless in Matt Ryan’s two drives. There are plenty of reasons for that, but it was a little disappointing to see the team not immediately assuaging everyone’s worries about the first team offense. It’s early, though, of course. Very early.
  • McKissic looked great returning that kick, but Devin Fuller (3 returns, an average of 5 yards) and Justin Hardy (1 return, 9 yards) didn’t stand out. McKissic’s 14 yard punt return was the best of the night.
  • It’s preseason, how nitpicky are we really going to be? Aside from some special teams and offensive blunders, plus some concerns about the reserves on defense, this was a fine game. Let’s leave it at that.

The Wrapup

Game MVP

Gonna hand the game ball over to McKissic, who was responsible for one of Atlanta’s two touchdowns and had the single most electric play of the night. Good for the rookie.

Theme Song

Whistle a merry little tune. Football is back, and it looks good.

One Takeaway

Atlanta’s got work to do offensively over the next few weeks, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the defense.

Next Week

Your Falcons travel to play the Cleveland Browns, which will be a fun game to cover (as well as an interesting offseason to discuss). Check out Dawgs by Nature to learn more about the Browns.

Final Word

Hooray!