As with all things preseason, the hot takes are rolling in off the presses. So many people had differing opinions about what they saw and what it all means, it’s easy to forget that these games don’t matter. If anything, it just heightens the desire to get to the regular season, which seems like it’s an eternity away.
Before then, though, we have to suffer through the preseason and the endless prognostications. Since we have no shame at The Falcoholic, we’re here to offer our own to the mix. Take it for what you will. Here are my 3 takeaways from the game against the Browns.
Ryan looked far more comfortable
It helps when you don’t have to start an offensive drive on your own 1 yard line, but starting QB Matt Ryan looked far more comfortable this week than he did in the first preseason game. He distributed the ball well, and appeared to be throwing with confidence. This is consistent with what people have been seeing in training camp over the last week, which is a good sign that Ryan is settling into a rhythm again.
Importantly, Ryan appeared to be distributing the ball well and his movement around the pocket was good. The fact that his first drive lead to a touchdown was good for nervous fans, if not somewhat irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.
If this team is going to turn it around in 2016, Ryan needs to play better. Let’s hope the game against the Browns is an indication that he’s turned the corner in this offense.
Rookies come down to earth
After a great start in the first preseason game, Campbell and Jones got the start in preseason game 2. Keanu Neal also got his first start at strong safety. Jones and Campbell came back down to earth a little bit, missing some tackles and being out of place for other plays. The defense in general got caught off-guard several times, as the Browns offense used the tempo to disorient the defense and take advantage. It was a good learning experience for the rookie linebackers, but it was obvious they were caught off-guard several times.
As for Neal, his first game was hard to gauge. The only play most people will remember will be him dropping into coverage against TE Gary Barnidge and getting beat for a touchdown. Neal’s coverage was mostly good - a good sign going against a good tight end - but he got a bit lost at the end of the coverage, which gave Barnidge a small window in which to catch the ball. It was a great pass and may have been impossible to defend, but it can also serve as a learning opportunity for the young player.
Other rookies like Hooper, Fuller and Schweitzer also had up-and-down performances.
All of this serves as a reminder that training camp performances are never a predictor for in-game action. That doesn’t mean these rookies can’t/won’t improve, but expecting them to come in and perform at a consistently high level is asking to be disappointed.
Running back competition heats up
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have nothing to worry about. The bigger question is who will take the backup spot behind them. Going into camp, the assumption was that Terron Ward would likely get the shot again. However, as camp has progressed (and Ward has been injured), other players have emerged. Last night only muddied the waters more, as the running game was good all night, and several players made strong cases for that third RB spot.
Brandon Wilds has been getting the reps that Ward would have been getting, and he’s shown to be a good runner in the ZBS. Many thought he would run away with the job (pun intended), but players like Cyrus Gray and Gus Johnson have decided to make this an interesting competition. Both Gray and Johnson also had nice runs on the evening, showing good physicality and burst in their opportunities.
At this point, Ward needs to get healthy and fast. It’s looking like his spot has already slipped away. The only question is to who.
What are some of your takeaways from the second preseason game against the Browns?