Here are our key takeaways and lessons learned from Week 2 of preseason. Be sure to share yours with us!
I learned who the team’s fullback is going to be, and I learned just how exciting the offense can be in the most vanilla setting possible. Facing a solid Chiefs defense and under no obligation to break out the season’s playbook, the Falcons showed dominant flashes thanks to nothing more than nice throws, quality blocking up front, and some very exciting route running by Calvin Ridley. That plus some clarity at the fullback position goes a very long way.
Calvin Ridley is going to be a problem for the league. Running with the first-team offense that was missing both Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, he looked downright dangerous. Ridley’s route-running ability was on full display during the Falcons’ second possession as he shook Chiefs cornerback David Amerson out of his shoes and hauled in a deep ball from Matt Ryan. The receiving trifecta of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley should be one of the best in the NFL.
Damontae Kazee is doing everything he can to ensure he gets significant snaps in the regular season. His interception against Mahomes showed his nose for the ball. Combined with his outstanding performance in game one, it’s hard to deny that Kazee is a guy that has made a big leap in year two. His only issue? The Falcons secondary already has cemented starters. However, if he keeps playing like he is, he’ll force Dan Quinn to find a way to integrate him once the games count.
It’s hard to not get super excited about Calvin Ridley. He’s already making defensive backs look silly and throwing Maddenesque stiff arms. I agree with Carter, the three-headed monster that is Julio Jones-Mohamed Sanu-Ridley is going to be tough for our opponents to handle. Rookie quarterback Kurk Benkert experienced some growing pains last night; and let’s be honest, we saw that coming. I still think he has the potential to back up Matt Ryan with a little more seasoning, but Matt Schaub’s job is safe for now.
We lost, but I don’t really care today. We saw lots of improvement in the starters, though, and that’s all I care about.
The flow of the offense has clearly improved in Sark’s second year. Ridley looked like a top 10 pick, and was extremely productive Friday night. Brian Poole looks like he definitely understands what Dan Quinn wants in a cornerback: speed and physicality. Kazee was flying around the field, which has seemed to be the case in the last two weeks. His play is extremely intriguing and I wonder if the Falcons would consider running three safety sets to get him onto the field. The new helmet rule is killer, as Keanu got flagged early for what looked like a clean football hit.
Although Atlanta lost, the first team was firing on all cylinders. Finally, I’m not worried about Julio, Freeman, Deion Jones and Matt Bryant not playing, because it’s good to take precautions. Julio, who should finally be at 100%, is more than capable of putting up 2,000 yards. Good game In my book!
Just as I tried not to get too worked up about the team looking stinky against the Jets, I’m trying not to get too excited about them looking like a Super Bowl contender against the Chiefs. But, obviously, you like what you saw when it counted.
The first-team offense looked like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman were on the field even though they weren’t, which means the other guys are beginning to step up in a big way, particularly Austin Hooper. Hoop’s leapfrog touchdown stands to show his offseason work might propel him to a breakout campaign. Rookie WR Calvin Ridley looks electrifying when he’s on, and new guard Brandon Fusco gave the OL some stability. FB Ricky Ortiz also looks the part.
On defense, the front four continues to impress, and LB Duke Riley looked much better after sputtering in week one. Also, Damontae Kazee, of course. He’s having the best preseason of any Atlanta player. How will he get involved this year? It’ll be exciting to see. Again, be wary to get too amped on August football, but man, things are starting to click down in Flowery Branch. Next week’s Jags dress rehearsal will tell a lot.