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What to watch when the Falcons play the Browns in the preseason finale

The regular season inches closer and closer.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons finish out their preseason by facing a supremely deep and talented Cleveland Browns team. Loaded with talent throughout the roster, the Browns will certainly be a good litmus test for where the Falcons are overall as a team heading into the season.

Sadly, through the first two preseason games, we have yet to see many starters get any snaps. Certainly, I can understand that at some level, because for most coaches the major goal is to go into the regular season as healthy as possible. While it’s still difficult to say on whether we’ll see much from the starters, I expect a majority to see a few snaps, or even a few series. That being stated, here’s what I’ll be watching against the Cleveland Browns.

Matt Hennessy

Call me crazy, but I just don’t understand not giving Hennessy some reps at center in the preseason given this is his first season as the starter. I liked what I saw in camp, but in my opinion, it’s imperative he get some snaps, especially against a defensive line as deep and talented as the Browns.

We got a chance to see Dalman take plenty of snaps at the center position and feel comfortable with him as a backup, but I’m just not overly sure of what we have in Hennessy as a starter. Seeing Hennessy play a few series, at least, would give us all a good idea of where he is in his progression at the position.

Kyle Pitts

Is this finally the game where we see Pitts take a few snaps? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been very anxious to see the rookie take the field this preseason. There have been debates on whether preseason games really have any meaning for the players that are roster locks.

For rookies, I do believe it has meaning. Getting some snaps to get their bearings and to take an active look of the speed of the game can be a productive means of getting a rookie a taste of what they’ll see in the regular season. Plus, I just want to see him get on the field and see how he looks, if only for a few series.

Avery Williams and Chris Rowland

Special teams matter! The punt return battle has been a pretty good one up to this point between Williams and Chris Rowland. Both have shown solid reps on special teams, but ultimately, I do feel it will come down to what Williams or Rowland provides at their positions. Both are about the same size (Williams is slightly taller), shifty and have the speed and explosiveness necessary to be good returners.

According to the updated depth chart on the Atlanta Falcons website, Rowland is shown as the starting punt returner. I’m sure it’s best not to read too much into that, but given that Coach Smith is an offensive coach and Rowland could provide value as a slot/gadget receiver, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility thathe has a slight edge in winning the role. That being stated, I’m sure the starting punt returner role won’t be decided until the very last minute.

Josh Rosen

It’s always hard to watch a player go down for the season with an injury. Given the injury to A.J. McCarron, the Falcons went out and got the former 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen to compete for the backup QB job behind Matt Ryan.

This pickup has had some mixed reviews, given that this will be Rosen’s fifth team since he was drafted. However, I really don’t see the harm in bringing him in to see what he can do as a backup. Of course, it’s not realistic to expect Rosen to pick up the entire playbook in time to play against the Browns, but I’ll be intrigued to see how he performs in the short time he’s been given to prepare. Coach Smith has made it known that he’s not done at the quarterback position, but if Rosen shows some promise in the snaps he sees, it could make things easier.


Given that this game is the preseason finale, I expect it to be a bit of a “dress rehearsal” for the Falcons as they get ready for the regular season. Of course, I don’t expect Coach Smith and Coach Pees to show the entire arsenal, but I do expect that we will get a taste of what’s to come. While I’ll be looking at many other factors, I’ll have a particular focus on the offense for multiple reasons.

Given that the offense has been a bit of a roller coaster ride to start, I’m looking for a level of consistency in regards to overall play and discipline. While the expectation is that Matt Ryan and the other starters will indeed see the field, it’s an uncertainty on how many snaps each starter will see. However, between trench play, play calling and overall execution, I know we all would like to see a solid performance as the Falcons prepare for the regular season.