As they are wont to do, the Falcons starting units played well enough to secure a lead against the Steelers only to have the third-stringers and the beneath-the-bottom-of-the-roster-barrel guys do just enough to let that lead slip through their fingers.
But the nice thing about the preseason is that the final score doesn’t matter.
You know what does matter though? That’s right, player stock. Fine, fine player stock. So let’s take a look at some players who woke up with a smile on their face this morning and which guys had their nights beset by black-and-gold nightmares.
It’s the second week in a row where Terron leads this list, and for good reason. I’m frankly not sure what more Ward could have done the last two weeks to make a case for himself as the Falcons’ RB3. He had far and away the best rushing performance for the team, had a beastly block on the long Reggie Davis reception, and was a regular contributor on the starting special teams units. Ward is looking like and playing like a reliable, veteran back.
Given that there were some initial doubts as to whether Takk would contribute during the preseason at all, it was comforting to see him out there generating some pass rush on limited snaps. He appears to be on his way.
Last week, Davis got co-mentioned as Stock Up along with Marvin Hall and Anthony Dablé (never forget the accent). Davis separated himself from the pack with his play against the Steelers, pulling in a 44-yard deep ball from Matt Simms in stride, and reeling in all 3 of his targets for 74 yards. If Davis keeps this up, he is likely to be offered a practice squad spot, with an outside possibility of a roster spot.
Graf received plenty of snaps and held up well, separating himself from his rookie competition at tackle depth (which I’ll get to below). Here’s Pro Football Focus on his performance:
Graf played the fifth-most snaps on the Falcons offense with 50 and he did not disappoint. Playing the majority of his snaps in pass protection, the former USC lineman allowed just one quarterback hurry on 34 passing plays at right tackle.
The Austin Pasztor signing complicates Graf’s chances of making the team. But Graf nonetheless appeared to be the best backup tackle on the field for the Falcons on Sunday.
Matt Bosher and the Falcons punt team
The starting punt team looked fine on the very first punt attempt. But once the Falcons started mixing in their special teams depth, things proceeded to go haywire. A punt block, a partial punt block, a punt return touchdown in which Matt Bosher got juked. It....was not pretty. Bosher’s roster status is obviously secure so he has the luxury of burning that game film and never thinking about it again. But I don’t envy some of those backup special teamers and I cringe to think about what they’ll be hearing out of Coach Armstrong’s mouth during film review.
Rookie Swing Tackle Candidates
I’m old enough to remember when some folks were excited about the possibility of Andreas Knappe coming into camp and seizing the swing tackle spot. Those are all just faint memories now. Knappe played 5 generally unimpressive snaps and fellow rookie Wil Freeman played just 3 snaps. Although Daniel Brunskill played 60 snaps, he got beat badly twice by “Deuce Bigalow” Anthony Chickillo for two sacks. Certainly nothing that these three rookies did on Sunday gave the team any second thoughts about signing Austin Pasztor to be their 2017 swing tackle.
Saubert received a lot of playing time in the game, but didn’t stand out and had two penalties to boot. If he makes the 53-man roster, it will probably have more to do with the fact that he was a 5th round draft pick than anything he’s done on the field (at least thus far).
Roster decisions generally aren’t made based on one preseason play. But Hall nonetheless can’t feel good about dropping an easy touchdown catch that would have put the Falcons up 14-0. He’ll have to put that gaffe out of mind quickly in order to reassert himself over other WR options like Reggie Davis and Anthony Dablé.
Ishmael played 37 snaps on defense and was still in the game at the very end with the deep backups. For those of us who thought he’d be a natural fit at linebacker and could be used this season as a utility defender, the early returns are a bit disappointing. Ishmael still appears to be learning the linebacker position, as he looks a bit sluggish and tentative. It’s far too early to declare his move over from strong safety to be a mistake, but at least when he was a backup safety he’d flash some plays that would make you want to see him on the field more. He hasn’t been standing out at linebacker.