With two preseason games in the books, it’s now time to turn our attention to the all-important (and most entertaining) third preseason game. This year, the Falcons will take on the Cardinals, and they’ll be doing it in their brand-spanking-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That might be the most exciting thing of all on Saturday, but there’s still a lot to look forward to.
The starters should receive a lot more snaps in this game than either of the previous two. Whether that means a few series, a quarter, or the whole first half, we will see both the first-string offense and defense play a fair amount of snaps. This week’s opponent should provide a much more appropriate challenge, at least on offense (Josh Dobbs and the Steelers sans Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell weren’t particularly inspiring).
With all that in mind, here are some intriguing players to monitor during Saturday’s game.
The starting defense
OK, so maybe this is a cop-out, but I couldn’t nail down just one player to watch. The main thing we should be paying attention to is how well the starting defense plays against a real offense. They’ve looked great so far, but both of those games were against back-up QBs (Matt Moore in Miami and Josh Dobbs in Pittsburgh), and for only one or two series apiece. This week, they should have an opportunity to face a team with most of its starters, and for more than 1-2 series. If they perform well, that will be very encouraging.
TE Austin Hooper
Hooper has been excellent so far in the preseason. He’s looked improved as a blocker and has shown a comfortable rapport with Matt Ryan. The Cardinals defense will prove to be a unique challenge for Hooper, as they have the talent in the back seven to match-up with the athletic TE. If he can continue to find success, Hooper will be locked and loaded for a breakout season in 2017.
RB Brian Hill and TE Eric Saubert
Two of the Falcons three 5th round picks are currently on the roster bubble. Hill has not had much of a chance to show off his ability, due to extremely poor blocking and his running style. Saubert has simply failed to show anything except a penchant for penalties. The Falcons really would like to keep these two around, so if one or both could show the team something in this game, that would go a long way in justifying their spots on the roster.
G Wes Schweitzer
It seems like Schweitzer has taken a slight lead in the G battle going into the third preseason game. He looked solid when playing with the starters against the Steelers, who have a pretty talented defensive line. It will be interesting to see how he fares in more extended time against the Cardinals, who also have talent in their front-7. I’m particularly interested in watching his pass protection—if he could be an upgrade over Chris Chester in that area, it could make a big difference for the offense.
The great WR6 battle
The competition is heating up between UDFA WRs Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall and veteran Nick Williams. This will be the game that likely wins or loses their spot, and each should have an opportunity to get some snaps with the starters. Hall had the advantage after the first game, but Davis looked more impressive against the Steelers. Williams is also hanging around, and the coaching staff knows what to expect from him. It will be interesting to see if any of the three distances themselves from the others on Saturday.
These are the players I’m most interesting in watching against the Cardinals. Who are some players you’ll be keeping an eye on during the Falcons’ third preseason game?