The third preseason game used to be the most critical of them all, as it was the one where starters got the most run. The fact that the Falcons don’t need to cut down to 75 man roster after the third game may change that calculus, but given that NFL coaches are creatures of habit, this will still probably be the longest regular season warmup for guys like Matt Ryan, Austin Hooper, the starting offensive line, and that extremely fast and physical defense.
So what should you expect from this one?
Those hoping to start, like Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer, will greatly benefit from the expanded time with the first team, as it’ll give them a chance to show out in game action against bonafide starters for more than a series or two. It’ll be a good opportunity for starters to knock off what little rust remains after a long summer before what will effectively be a two week layoff until the regular season starts. And it’s an opportunity for the Falcons to evaluate the cream of the crop on their roster one final time before they inevitably turn things back over to the reserves sometime in the late second quarter or early third quarter.
For the deep reserves, who have given the Falcons plenty of game tape to evaluate thus far, there will correspondingly be fewer snaps and a little more pressure to make a big impression. For players like Daniel Brunskill and Darion Griswold who are firmly on the bubble, that’s a big deal.
Because the team doesn’t have to make a decision on their 90 man roster until post-Week 4 of preseason, that may prove to be the major proving ground for the guys hoping to snag an inactive spot or a practice squad slot in 2017. This one should give us a longer look at a team that has looked ridiculously good when the starters are in the game, and we’ll see if their momentum continues apace.