The purpose of preseason games, as you well know, is not to win. Winning feels nice for about five minutes, but if you haven’t gotten a good look at your team and started to evaluate your 90 man roster as a result of that, then a preseason game has done you absolutely zero good.
That’s the cheeriest note I can sound after the Falcons “treated” us to four quarters of objectionable football in a game where Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman sat, Matt Ryan threw one pass, and the starters got off the field like it was emitting visible radiation. The Falcons got a ton of good tape on their reserves, enough that they can start to make tough decisions on those players near the bottom of the roster and consider the roles of guys like Damontae Kazee, Deadrin Senat, Devin Gray and Kurt Benkert, who showed some genuine promise in this one.
The less said about the actual game, the better, because the outcome didn’t matter and the Falcons were tediously, persistently lousy throughout, particularly on offense. If there’s one major concern here it’s that the Falcons couldn’t figure out the right play to get any scores at all, despite the shifting Jets defense, but I can’t worry too much when we barely saw the starters at all. The second preseason game may prove to be more interesting because the Falcons will almost certainly adjust playing time and so forth based on what they saw in this one, which will hopefully lead to a less depressing viewing experience.
On to the good, the ugly, and the wrapup, as is our custom.
- Nobody got hurt. I am very serious when I say that was the most important thing by a very wide margin.
- The Falcons got more than enough tape on their offensive line, which looked abysmal, and their defense line, which looked solid enough. The evaluation opportunities afforded by games like this, where you don’t know exactly who you’re matching up against and exactly what they’ll have in store for you, are legitimately helpful.
- Damontae Kazee was absolutely everywhere for the Falcons early on, getting involved in several tackles in the first quarter and showing speed and physicality that the rest of the defense seemed to be missing early on. He finished the game with 11 tackles and just missed a couple more, and since he showed real ability a year ago, I have to consider that a positive omen.
I have no idea where Kazee will play this year—there’s not exactly a lot of snaps to go around—but the Falcons will find a way to get him on the field if he’s going to play with this kind of intensity.
- Deadrin Senat didn’t pull off any sacks or big backfield stops, but he was a load to deal with for the Jets, occupying blockers, closing off lanes and showing strength and excellent hand usage for a rookie. He’s an exciting player.
- Devin Gray shone (shined? shonered?) at wide receiver, hauling in a couple of very nice deep balls and just missing on some middling throws otherwise. The Falcons will carry at least one (and probably two) receivers on their practice squad, and Gray showed enough tonight to take the inside track to one of those spots.
- There was exactly one sack in this game, and it belonged to Jon Celestin, the recently-signed former Minnesota product who made a couple of nice moves to get his hands on Sam Darnold. He would have had a second if it hadn’t been erased by penalty, and the relentless focus he showed on those plays is going to get him a longer look in the coming weeks.
- Look, Kurt Benkert isn’t going to force his way into a backup role or anything, but on balance I liked what I saw. His short throws and pocket presence certainly need some work, but he can throw a pretty deep ball, and he can throw it on the run. There’s enough here that I hope he gets to stick around on the practice squad, even if he did fade late and throw an ugly interception.
- The football! Oh god, the football. The Falcons simply did not look like they knew what they were doing here, and while Atlanta’s going to take that in stride given that it was preseason, Dan Quinn certainly did not love seeing the team gassily passing four quarters, either.
- Duke RIley needs every advantage he can get early on with Foye Oluokun impressing, and this just wasn’t the performance he needed. On the Isaiah Crowell touchdown in the first quarter, Riley let Crowell slip by him and then simply couldn’t catch him, a play that was way too familiar from 2017. It’s just one preseason game and I remain intrigued by Riley’s athleticism, but he doesn’t have forever to start standing out.
- The offense was ugly from the first snap to the last, with a handful of highlights. I thought the blocking was objectionable, the passing middling, the rushing decent but doomed thanks to the blocking, and the play calling typically vanilla for preseason. It was not fun to watch, to say the least.
- You know what, it’s preseason. That’s enough.
Kazee, because his tackling prevented this game from being even longer and more embarrassing than it already was.
The Falcons have some legitimate work to do in order to evaluate their reserves and ensure they’re fielding good ones for the season ahead.