With the Atlanta Falcons’ first preseason game in the books, we now turn our attention to the second game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The starters are likely to play a little more in this game, which will provide an opportunity to watch some more entertaining (and enlightening) football.
Outside of the established starters, there are plenty of players looking to make their mark for the Falcons. Let’s take a look at some of the more intriguing names that will be fighting for roster and practice squad spots on Sunday.
EDGE J’Terius Jones
Jones was quite impressive in the first preseason game. Against the Dolphins, Jones was effective rushing from a variety of positions along the defensive line. It’s important to note that Jones was playing against back-ups, but seeing a young pass rusher create consistent pressure is something that can’t be ignored.
If Jones can continue his strong play against the Steelers—perhaps against some stiffer competition—then he could be in contention for a spot on the 53-man roster. Unless he really falls off over the next three games, he seems destined for the practice squad, at worst.
CB Jalen Collins
This is certainly the low-hanging fruit, but there’s no doubt that Collins is in desperate need of a bounce-back performance. He was regularly abused by the Dolphins’ 3rd and 4th string WRs last week, and generally looked out-of-sorts all night. After the news that Quinn intends to give Collins less snaps against the Steelers, it’ll be even more important for him to play his best.
It doesn’t appear that Collins’ roster spot is in immediate danger, but he could certainly make his seat a lot cooler by having a good game in Pittsburgh. He might be the player with the most pressure to perform going into this week’s game. Here’s to hoping that Collins can start looking more like his former self in the weeks to come.
WR Marvin Hall & WR Reggie Davis
Hall and Davis were the standout WRs from the Dolphins’ game, generally looking like dynamic and capable receiving options. Hall was perhaps the more impressive of the two, with Davis’ big play being called back due to a holding penalty. Both impressed catching the ball and displayed impressive speed in limited action.
There’s a real possibility that the Falcons could keep 6 WRs again this year, and the sixth spot is a completely open competition. With Devin Fuller out for the year, it will likely come down to veteran Nick Williams and the collection of UDFAs Atlanta brought in. Hall and Davis are arguably the front-runners now, and another strong performance could separate either of them from the pack.
G Wes Schweitzer & G Ben Garland
The RG battle is heating up as the Falcons go into their second preseason game. Both Garland and Schweitzer have looked competent in limited action thus far. They’ll receive another stiff test against the strong front-7 of the Steelers. There doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite yet, though it’s likely the team wants Schweitzer to win the job for various reasons (contract situation, Garland’s versatility).
Each will be trying to make their mark on Sunday. Keep an eye out for their performance in pass blocking, as both seem to be more comfortable in the running game. With only three games left before the regular season begins, every snap will be important for those trying to make their case as a starter.
TE Eric Saubert
To say Saubert had a disappointing debut would be a pretty accurate account of his first NFL action. He struggled to catch the ball, and had a holding penalty on an attempted—block, I guess?—that nullified a catch-and-run TD. The one catch he did make was for negative yardage. None of these things should be terribly surprising to anyone, as the jump in competition from Drake to the NFL is pretty staggering.
We know Saubert is talented and athletic, but it would certainly help the coaching staff feel more confident in him if he could put together a more well-rounded performance against the Steelers on Sunday. Expect the team to throw him into the fire as a blocker, as that is arguably the weakest part of his game. If he could make a few plays in the passing game, that would help alleviate any concerns about his NFL readiness.
These are the players that stood out most to me, and I’m excited to see how they play against Pittsburgh on Sunday. But what about you? Who are some players you’ll be watching during the Falcons’ second preseason game?