Fresh off a weak preseason game against the Titans, Atlanta will try to get their backups and those locked in position battles playing better against the Dolphins this coming weekend. That includes tightening up coverage, getting a better look at the passing game and ground game alike, and of course actually doing a decent job blocking the Miami defense and keeping them from killing A.J. McCarron and Feleipe Franks.
Before that, though, they’ll have two days of joint practices in Miami, beginning today. That’s where we’ll actually expect to see starters getting work, perhaps the closest thing to preseason game action we can expect for the likes of Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley, A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett unless Smith still has surprises in store for us.
Smith used the word “excited” to describe these upcoming practices, per D. Orlando Ledbetter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so he must truly be amped for them given that he seems like one of the least excitable men alive. He spoke about getting a closer look at Kaleb McGary against a quality Miami defensive front, given that McGary is re-joining the team after a lengthy absence and is pushing for the right tackle job without any indication that he’ll do so in either of the two remaining preseason game. It’ll also be an opportunity to see how Pitts fares against another football team, how crisp Ryan and company look in general on a less familiar practice field against less familiar faces, and whether Terrell continues to dominate in this new setting.
I’ll be particularly interested to see the following:
- How the offensive line fares. Willie Beavers continues to work as the de facto swing tackle and Jalen Mayfield appears to be out of it at right tackle, so what I really want to hear is that the likes of McGary, Matt Hennessy, Mayfield, Drew Dalman, Josh Andrews and Beavers look good in their practice reps. I do not want to worry about weakness at left guard, center and right tackle derailing the season, or depth issues eventually doing the same, so progress would at least make me feel a tiny bit better.
- How does this secondary look against Tua Tagovailoa and his weapons? Does the pass rush look solid in practice against these guys? The defense was the relative highlight of the Titans game, but that was largely backups working against backups, and while this isn’t a game situation it is an opportunity to gauge how much progress the starters and rotational leads are making.
- The duo of Caleb Huntley and Javian Hawkins each had their moments last Friday night, but they did not get much of a chance to shine. I fully expect them to dominate snaps against the Dolphins Saturday night, but I’ll be eager to see them and hopefully a healthy Qadree Ollison shining in practice first. Atlanta will have a tough decision or two to make with that group if they only intend to keep four backs.
We’ll stay tuned for practice updates from reporters at camp and hope for some positives from starters and those with prominent 2021 roles we likely won’t see in Saturday’s game. Let us know what you’re looking for in particular.