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Key preseason takeaways so far for the Falcons

Fact: Calvin Ridley’s moonwalk is as smooth as his route running.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After two weeks of play for the Atlanta Falcons this preseason, here are some notable takeaways:

Two weeks of preseason action so far and we now have a clear visual on how the Atlanta Falcons will play out the 2018 season.

Actually, if you truly pay attention to football, an 0-2 preseason does not necessarily indicate how things will go for the Falcons. There is plenty of talent, plenty of skill and plenty of optimism surrounding this team. As the preseason continues to roll along and the Falcons slowly get ready for the much-anticipated Week 1 showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, here are a number of noteworthy observations of the Falcons so far.

  • While it was not vividly seen during the preseason opener against the New York Jets, the play-calling potential of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was on display during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. The Falcons totaled 246 yards with their first four drives going for seven plays or more. It should be added that both Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman have yet to play a down this preseason. There are a few wrinkles in the outfit that need ironing, but how the first and second teams operated in the first half against the Chiefs under Sarkisian’s eye showed the promise that we needed to see.
  • The play of second-year defensive back Damontae Kazee has really opened eyes as of late. The former San Diego State cornerback was known for his ballhawking prowess at the collegiate level, but so far, he has displayed a knack for tackling with purpose which was evident against the Jets. His interception of a Patrick Mahomes pass against Kansas City showcased why the coaching staff sees his potential as a free safety in this scheme. Expect Kazee to have a productive 2018 season.
NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
  • It was quite alarming that the special teams aspect of the team still needs a boost. Last season, the kick coverage was the elephant in the room. As we stand now, the unit saw three dropped kickoffs against Kansas City and also gave up a sizable punt return late in the second half. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong has developed a solid reputation for his work in past seasons but he has some work to do with the cast of personnel he has now.
  • The decisions to give rest to Jones and Freeman in the first two preseason games will be beneficial later down the line. It has been a while since Jones has entered a season truly 100%, and no I don’t mean “I’m good enough to suit up” 100%, I mean absolutely 100%. Plus, Freeman is coming off offseason knee surgery, and while he looked superb during training camp, there is no need for unnecessary contact to the team’s lead back.
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
  • Speaking of wide receivers, rookie wideout Calvin Ridley saw his first touchdown of his professional career after catching a pass from quarterback Matt Schaub in the second quarter against the Chiefs. He also saw his first big play with a 36-yard catch from Matt Ryan on the team’s second drive of the game. Sarkisian is strategizing by moving Ridley around in different formations, and he appears to have the trust from both Ryan and Schaub, which is very critical for his development moving forward.
  • Competition along the offensive line during the offseason is slowly paying dividends and the line as a whole is deep and pretty good. Veteran guard Brandon Fusco impressed many with his play against the Chiefs, and the depth provided by guards Wes Schweitzer, Sean Harlow, and Ben Garland is quietly improving as well. Injuries took a little bit out of the unit last season but when completely healthy, the Falcons have an excellent crop of blockers entering the season.