That was the kind of game you hope to forget about as quickly as possible. I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever think about those brutal preseason losses of yesteryear, and I hope this one will soon fade into the fog of time, as well.
That said, there were obvious winners and loseres
OC Steve Sarkisian
This might seem like a weird choice, given that the offense only scored six points, but I thought Sark did a fine job. The Falcons were undone by indifferent blocking up front and some backbreaking drops at critical moments, including Mohamed Sanu in the end zone and Calvin Ridley on some major opportunities along the way. Couple that with the impressive gains in the second half by Eric Saubert and Dontez Byrd and I think you have pretty compelling evidence that Sark called a solid game, one that would have looked a hell of a lot better minus a handful of miscues.
That said, he didn’t get nearly enough out of the ground game, and I’ll be a little worried about that until we see Devonta Freeman back and picking up chunks of yardage.
S Damontae Kazee
The stone solid second year safety was great once again, even if he had a couple of smaller adventures in coverage. Kazee forced a fumble, nearly picked a pass, and tied for the team lead in tackles while showing the kind of ability to bring down the ball carrier that Dan Quinn (I assume) dreams of regularly. The Falcons have to find a role for him, because even if you just chalk it up to preseason, Kazee’s shown enough raw talent and physicality to matter to this defense.
LB Jonathan Celestin
The Falcons are still trying to sort out whether Duke Riley is a full-time starter or if Foye Oluokun is going to steal some snaps, I suspect, because of the narrow gap between the two during preseason. They also have a tough decision ahead with Celestin.
The former Minnesota linebacker has shown the Falcons plenty, albeit against backups, and once again tied for the team lead in tackles against the Jaguars. His effort is off the charts, as you’d expect for a roster hopeful, but he’s also a genuinely fast and physical player who fits the mold of what the team is looking for at linebacker. At this point, unless Richard Jarvis blows him off the field next week, I’d expect Celestin to hang on to a practice squad spot.
WR Calvin Ridley
The rookie has a bright future in the NFL. He runs routes very well, gets open quite effectively, looks like a potential asset on special teams, and is fast as hell. All of that is going to almost ensure that he carves out a decent career as a second receiver, at the very least.
But if Ridley wants to be special—and I suspect he does—he’ll have to get the drops under control. The issue that plagued him at times during his career at Alabama was present and obvious against the Jaguars, as Ridley had some manageable receptions that he managed to mess up. Those are just blips now, as it’s preseason, but Ridley is going to be under the microscope all year and needs to make those catches to ensures a great rookie season.
CB Isaiah Oliver
There were so many worthy choices in this one that it almost feels unfair to pick on two rookies I genuinely love, but c’est la vie.
Oliver hasn’t shown much this summer, to be blunt. His talent is evident from even a cursory glance at his Colorado film, and I really don’t doubt that he’ll be an impactful cornerback for the Falcons sooner than later. With Kazee playing out of his mind and Brian Poole generally looking quite good this offseason, Oliver may not step right into a major role in nickel packages as I anticipated, especially after he’s shown poor instincts each of the last two weeks.
Couple that with a muffed punt against the Jaguars, more or less erasing his hopes of being a factor there, and you’ve got a player who might find himself on the bench early on. That’s at least mildly disappointing for the second round pick, even if I think he’ll find his way into the lineup soon.
You had a lousy week at work. Your boss wasn’t happy with the Gunderson report, as you had expected, and you’re busy getting the kids ready for school. You plopped down in front of the TV Saturday night hoping the Falcons would give you something to celebrate, especially since you cancelled plans with Brad and Alicia to watch them.
And then...this. The Falcons stunk, the football was borderline unwatchable, and now Atlanta’s 0-3 and you have no idea how good they’re going to be in the regular season.
Frankly, you’re frustrated, and we don’t blame you. No matter how realistic/optimistic you are about this regular season, that wasn’t a great way to spend your Saturday night, and we want you to know we feel your pain.