If you were watching the third preseason game - the dress rehearsal if you will - hoping to find something to be hopeful about, then you're probably not in a good space. It was the kind of performance that induces alcoholism in many fans, including yours truly. That said, it was just a preseason game, so take it all with a grain of salt. It's impossible to know for sure how much each team was really running their "true" offense and defense. With that caveat stated, here are my takeaways from the game.
Young players look "better"
Let me clarify first what I mean by "better." That doesn't necessarily mean that they looked good, but in many cases they looked better than our veteran options. Even though Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell missed tackles, the difference in speed between them and Worrilow/Weatherspoon is hugely noticeable. Before he went down with injury, Keanu Neal was flashing the speed and aggressive play we were hoping for. Austin Hooper may not be polished, but he certainly looked like a better receiver than Toilolo.
The Falcons may actually end up starting three rookies on defense, and I'm beginning to think that's not a bad idea anymore. The "bumps in the road" may be worth it for the upside of the pure physical talent. While they may not look "good" out there, they're already looking better than some of our alternatives.
Offensive line still a work in progress
There's a reason the coaching staff have been rotating guys in at left guard and right guard - those positions are completely unsettled. Andy Levitre and Chris Chester may still end up as the starters, but not because the team is overly confident in them. We've seen Ben Garland, Mike Person and Wes Schweitzer all get opportunities with the first unit because the team knows they have to improve the play on the interior. Last night emphasized that point, as the interior of the line was blown up on several occasions. Alex Mack alone isn't going to fix this issue.
Right now, the money is on Levitre and Chester. Schweitzer shows flashes of competence, but is very inconsistent at this point. Person and Garland fall into the same boat. Don't be surprised if the Falcons look at their options and make a last minute move outside the organization. They did the exact same thing last year when they opted to get Levitre to help (try at least) to stabilize the spot at left guard.
Receiver spots are still not settled
Obviously, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy are not going anywhere. It's also looking like Aldrick Robinson is wrapping up that fourth WR spot. After that, though, there are no certainties.
First off, many are assuming the Falcons will keep 6 receivers. I'm not convinced they will. The team could opt to go with 5, and carry an extra tight-end (Tialavea as a blocking option for instance). Even if they do carry six receivers, that sixth player is likely to be inactive every game, so they would only do that to carry a player with long-term potential that they feel they won't be able to stash on the practice squad.
As for that fifth spot? It's a toss up. Devin Fuller has the draft status, but J.D. McKissic has been more impressive over the preseason. Nick Williams has shown to be reliable and has experience in this system, while Eric Weems has immense value as a special teams guru. The last game of the preseason will be critical for seeing how all of this plays out.
What are your takeaways from the game against the Dolphins?