The Atlanta Falcons did exactly what they needed to do to put us at ease after a long offseason that followed a loss I never, ever want to talk about again. The defense got an immediate stop, the offense scored a quick touchdown, and then the starters came off the field. Easy, clean, and beautiful.
Even with the immediate reserves and third-stringers in, the Falcons looked fairly solid, though the offense slowed down significantly without the star-studded starters in the game. It was only late when the roster hopefuls came in that things went sour for Atlanta, and frankly, that’s often the case in preseason. Unfortunately, that’s also the last impression we’re left with, and an exercise in tedium. We saw very little last night that should or even could be considered a cause for alarm, though we’ll touch on those ugly notes below.
With the first preseason game in particular, though, you just have to get everyone through healthy, not get blown off the field to the extent that you make people wonder about your talent level, and get enough out of the starters to point to bright days in the regular season. The Falcons ticked all those boxes, as I noted above, and thus you should hold any worries you may have until later.
Although every preseason game is long and grueling, it felt good to have our Falcons back, and it was excellent to see a glimpse of just how good the starters can be. It was also, as you noted last night, a chance for fans to vent their frustrations on Jalen Collins, who is suspended for ten regular season games and had a poor preseason Week 1 effort. More on that a little later.
Let’s start with the good and recap this one.
- The offense looked extremely crisp, even without Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel on the field. Matt Ryan moved the team down effortlessly, Devonta Freeman looked as strong as ever, and the score was swift and brutal. The offense should be scary yet again in 2017.
- Terron Ward didn’t get into the game until fairly late, but he played extremely well in his opportunities, which should help give him an early leg up on the likes of Brian Hill and BJ Daniels. Ward showed power and good instincts on his runs, ultimately rushing 11 times for 48 yards and a touchdown, and he even reeled in all three of his targets for 16 yards. We’ve known that Ward is capable for a little while now, but he also keeps reminding us not to bet against him.
- Reggie Davis may prove to be the receiver who endears himself to fans and winds up being a tough cut (and maybe a practice squadder) this year. He looked good last night.
- Then again, maybe it’ll be Marvin Hall, who despite a fumble looked awfully good as a returner and added two grabs for 23 yards.
- THEN AGAIN, maybe it’ll be Anthony Dable, who led the team with three catches for 32 yards and looked legitimately fast and physical on the field. There are, as always, too many of these young, seemingly talented wide receivers hanging around for us to have any idea who will be standing at the end of August.
- I didn’t think Matt Simms and Alek Torgersen played poorly at all. That could sneakily be an interesting battle, given that one of them is virtually guaranteed to make the practice squad.
- Deion Jones was impressive. I’ll have a little article about that in an hour or so, but suffice to say he did excellent work against the run.
- I love De’Vondre Campbell. I’ll put that disclaimer out there so you take my gushing about his potential with the appropriate grain of salt, but he could be one of the NFL’s best linebackers with a little more time given his blend of size, speed, and rapidly improving football instincts. I mean, look at this.
- Give it up for Jarnor Jones, who had a pick off of David Fales and played surprisingly solid coverage in his opportunity last night. With so many Falcons defensive backs scuffling, he may get a longer look in the weeks ahead. He’s probably not going to be able to crack the roster, but hey, practice squad!
- Kicker Mike Meyer was impressive on a day where Matt Bryant missed his lone field goal attempt, which should inevitably kick off a small preseason firestorm. His 53 yard field goal in the second half showed a strong leg, and while there’s virtually no chance he’ll ultimately beat out Bryant for a job, he may be a name to keep in mind if the Falcons need a kicker down the line.
- Sean Harlow is a rookie fourth rounder, and it showed on the field against the Dolphins, where he struggled mightily in pass protection over and over and over again. The Falcons drafted Harlow because they like him as a backup guard at worst, so this is nothing to be worried about. Welcome to the NFL, rook.
- Jalen Collins might not be playing for a job in this preseason, but he’s certainly got a lot to prove to this coaching staff after picking up a 10 game suspension. To be blunt, he didn’t have a great game against Miami’s deep reserves, and he and Marcelis Branch shared the blame on a 99 yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and he got beat against on a 28 yarder with the game winding down. A preseason game won’t and shouldn’t impact his status with the team, but it wasn’t a great game, either way. His future with the team remains deeply uncertain, even if I ultimately hope the second rounder sticks around.
- Marvin Hall looked good on offense, but he coughed the ball up on special teams, which means he’s going to get reamed out by legendary reamer Keith Armstrong.
- Matt Bryant missed a kick. It’s preseason and it wasn’t an easy kick, so I’m just gonna go ahead and not worry about that just yet.
- The Falcons surrendered a lead late, so you’re sure to hear some tired jokes in the days ahead.
Gonna give this one to Campbell for that insanely pretty interception. That was fun to watch.
Atlanta’s starters look as good as you’d expect. The next three weeks will help us sort out who belongs on this roster behind them.
The Falcons will have to wait ten days, but they’ll get to face off against the Steelers on the road next. We’ll see if Pittsburgh’s high-powered starting offense has more luck against this Falcons defense.