You didn’t watch this game expecting good football, you watched it because you love the Falcons. Happily, you got a tiny bit of good football, even if it was only a tiny bit.
There’s not a ton to say about the game before preseason even begins, but it’s worth calling out where the Falcons were actually good or egregiously bad, and we’ll do both here. The Falcons obviously lost this one late, but with nothing but reserves in and the defense largely faring well, I really hope no one’s too broken up about it.
I’ll save my lengthy preambles for the real preseason action, which begins next Thursday. Onward!
- It took a little while, but Kurt Benkert got into a rhythm and showed off the kind of skill that makes me legitimately think he could push for the backup job. After airmailing a couple of throws early on, Benkert settled down to throw a touchdown pass to Brian Hill. In the third quarter, he was the maestro for a really effective drive where he threw on the run and connected with a bunch of different receivers, showing a live arm in the process. He has to build on the effort, but it was a great opening salvo in his battle against Matt Schaub. Hopefully the injury that knocked him out late in the night isn’t a big deal.
- Brian Hill had a good game considering everything, reeling off a nice run that was called back due to penalty and catching Benkert’s lone touchdown pass of the game. If he’s going to stick on the roster he’ll need to outplay everyone else, and showing some versatility is a good start. Qadree Ollison also ran well, though.
- John Cominsky looked scary. It’s early and it’s against backups, but he was hustling on special teams and a wrecking ball on defense, coming up with a sack on Drew Lock after a blistering rush and generally looking like one of the better young defenders on the field. He’ll have his rookie year struggles and isn’t likely to carve out a major role just yet, but long-term he’s definitely a player to watch.
- Similarly, Yurik Bethune wasn’t a name that came up much earlier in the year, but he’s drawn a little camp buzz and looked quite good on Thursday night. He’s got legitimate speed and found his way into the backfield more than once, and should be worth watching in a linebacker depth chart that is anything but settled beyond Foye Oluokun.
- There were nice moments from both rookie cornerbacks, but particularly Jordan Miller, who was agonizingly close to an interception and showed some sticky coverage skills. Kendall Sheffield also forced a fumble. If these two can be even useful, the Falcons will greatly benefit from it.
- Matt Bosher will have job security is the backups ever need to play on offense in the regular season.
- Boy, where do we start? It was an exhibition game, which is going to be ugly, and virtually none of the starters went either. That was a recipe for sloppy football, and we got a ton of it.
- Matt Schaub has had a wonderful career, one of the better ones in recent memory for a third rounder. He’s drawn a ton of praise for helping Matt Ryan adapt to Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, serving as a locker room leader and guru, and is undoubtedly going to make a fine coach for someone in the near future. I genuinely like and respect the man.
That said, I’m not sure he should win the backup job. If Benkert is healthy he gives the team a fighting chance in a football game should the unthinkable happen, whereas Schaub’s arm looks absolutely cooked and he actually finished with a pick and barely positive yardage. It’s a single game and it’s not a good idea to draw too many conclusions, especially with all the backups in, but we have a few years of limited playing time to suggest that Schaub’s best role now is as a dispenser of sage advice, not as a QB.
- You can’t necessarily win or lose a game this early in preseason (I mean, it’s not even technically preseason yet), but Ryan Neal may have done it. He blew a chance late in this one and it led to a Denver score, and as Will McFadden at the mothership noted, he’s had a shaky camp. With Kemal Ishmael moving to safety, Neal’s fate is all but sealed.
- The return game was a flop here. Both Olamide Zaccheaus and Marcus Green muffed (but ultimately recovered) a punt, and Green left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. If Green’s injury is serious it’ll winnow down the competition by default, which would be a huge shame, but either way there was no early separation in this battle.
- Giorgio Tavecchio missed a field goal. Yes, it was an exhibition game and yes, it was a 54 yarder, but that’s going to roil a few stomachs.
I’m just doing this to warm up for the regular season. We’ll say Benkert for playing quarterback at a reasonably high level, but honorable mention to John Cominsky, Yurik Bethune, and you, the viewer at home.
The Falcons appear to be assembling some interesting depth, especially compared to a year ago. But your biggest takeaway, even if you’re someone who likes to closely analyze preseason games, should be that this one really didn’t tell us much of anything.