Now that the football season is finally upon us, we get to resort back to our comfortable analysis, over-analysis and hand-wringing followed up by joy, sorry, frustration, anger and heart-ache. Hooray for football!
That includes trying to take-away something from the first preseason game, which is like trying to read the future by staring into a glass of water. This game offers no guarantees, but there are a few things we can keep an eye on as the preseason progresses. Here are some of my key takeaways from the first preseason game between Atlanta and Washington.
It’s the first preseason game, don’t overreact
This goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyways. Fans often show strong emotions, both positive and negative, to what they see on the field. It’s important to remember that the teams use the preseason as more of a dress rehearsal than a real game. They do very little planning for their opponent, and often, they’re more concerned with trying out specific concepts on both offense and defense. It’s very much a time of trial and error, and that goes for both teams on the field.
Did the Falcons first team offense look poor? Yes, absolutely. It means nothing, though. Had they marched down the field and scored two touchdowns, it still would have meant nothing.
Similarly, the same can be said for the positive impressions. The defense looked pretty good, but that was going against a team that was also playing a very limited version of their offense.
It’s hard to do when you’re so excited for football to be back, but trying to draw conclusions after one preseason game - both positive and negative - almost never predicts what will happen in the regular season.
Let the preseason play out before overreacting to anything you’re seeing on the field.
We may have something in our rookie linebackers
Despite what was said above, what preseason games are good for is evaluating individual talent. Along those lines, the players most people should pay attention to are the rookies. You can learn a good bit about how their projected traits look in real game time situations.
Given that, both Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell demonstrated that we may have something in these two young linebackers.
Both players were flying to the ball consistently, making plays and generally proving to be the athletes we thought they were. Jones had a very nice play where he recovered on a screen pass, chasing down the running back and limiting the damage. The play showcased his speed and was a nice change from what we’ve seen out of our linebackers the last several years.
Similarly, Campbell was flying to the ball, showcasing the speed we’ve been hearing about in camp. He also had a nice open-field tackle that demonstrated his athletic ability.
It’s still very early to pencil these guys in as starters, but they looked good against the Washington reserves. If they continue to develop like this, don’t be surprised to see them get first team reps in the near future.
Backup QB may finally be solid
Keep in mind that Matt Schaub was playing against the second and third team players for Washington, but given that caveat, the veteran QB looked comfortable on the field. He showed that he can still execute on key principles of this offense, including rolling out to his left several times and making accurate throws. It’s clear that he’s comfortable with the offense that Shanahan wants to run.
Make no mistake: if anything ever happened to Matt Ryan, our chances of winning drop dramatically (in spite of all the hot takes from yesterday’s game), but at least with Schaub, he may be able to limit the damage somewhat. It will be nice to have a backup QB that we’re not terrified of seeing if push comes to shove.
What are your thoughts on the first preseason game of the 2016 season?