2014 Falcons Preseason Stock Report – Week 3It’s another week and another Atlanta Falcons preseason game to evaluate. This time it’s a loss to the Tennessee Titans, but there were many positives to take away from the game mainly because the starters looked impressive. But let’s examine which players have raised their stock and also lowered it within the past week.
WR Devin Hester
Hester made a couple of plays, including a nice 31-yard touchdown catch where he was able to generate big yards after the catch. But Hester’s most impressive play may have been a speed out late in the second quarter that went for 16 yards. That play occurred when the Falcons offense was in the no-huddle and trying to mount a scoring drive at the end of the first half. Hester blew past Coty Sensabaugh on that play, and it was a display of Matt Ryan recognizing the situational mismatch and Hester taking advantage of it. His 31-yard catch was more the result of Titans cornerback Jason McCourty slipping out of his break and safety Bernard Pollard being out of position to try and make a tackle after a quick slant. It was an excellent play and showcased Hester’s ability after the catch. It’s something the Falcons can build off, trying to take advantage of Hester’s ability to make plays with the ball in his hands.
OT Lamar Holmes
Compared to his play against the Titans last year, Holmes was magnificent on Saturday. He more than held his own against Derrick Morgan, who abused him last summer. Holmes inspired confidence that he can step up and fill the void at right tackle now that Jake Matthews has moved to the left side. While Holmes hasn’t completely proven himself and the competition at right tackle isn’t over in the eyes of the coaches, it’s a big step forward for the third-year tackle who hasn’t generated a ton of positive news during his time in Atlanta.
QB Sean Renfree
Renfree has taken a clear lead over the likes of T.J. Yates in the battle for the backup quarterback position. While Renfree has outplayed Yates now two weeks in a row, the separation has grown after his performance against the Titans. Yates appears to be still struggling with the finer points of the offense, and Renfree is playing with a lot more confidence and aggressiveness. There will be one final test against the Jaguars to determine the winner, but barring a major upset, it’s Renfree’s job to lose.
DE/OLB Stansly Maponga
Maponga worked over Titans backup right tackle Byron Stingily several times this past Saturday. Maponga has shown the growth necessary in his second-year as a pass-rusher that he should have no problem making the Falcons roster. While significant reps for Maponga during the regular season may be limited with Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Osi Umenyiora ahead of him on the depth chart as the Falcons edge-rushers, he is on pace to earn an increased role with the team at some point in the near future. He’s made plays both versus the run and pass, thus giving the team confidence that in the event of one of those players ahead of him goes down, that the defense shouldn’t skip much of a beat if Maponga is pressed into service.
DE/OLB Kroy Biermann
As his been the case with Tyson Jackson, Biermann has struggled to make an impact this preseason. Recovering from an Achilles injury, it makes sense that it would take a bit of time for Biermann to knock off the rust. But his struggles seem less to do with rust, and more to do with the simple reality that he may have lost a step within the past year. He’s been clearly outplayed by the likes of Jonathan Massaquoi this summer, to the point that the Falcons should certainly examine whether or not they have the right player starting for the team. Biermann still adds value to the roster because of his versatility to do other things besides pressure the quarterback, but at this point should be a limited role player versus a starter.
TE Levine Toilolo
Expectations were lowered significantly for Toilolo to the point that if he managed to be the league’s worst starting tight end, it was likely that the Falcons would still try and spin it as a positive step for the second-year player. With Toilolo, the hope was that his improved blocking could somewhat make up for in other ways what was lost in Tony Gonzalez’s receiving ability. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case anymore as Toilolo’s blocking has been a weak link for the Falcons offense throughout the preseason. Since it’s clear that the Falcons intend to have their tight end be primarily a blocker, it may not be time for the Falcons to try and find a better option than Toilolo appears ready to provide.
RB Antone Smith
Smith flashed the big play capabilities that he’s become increasingly famous for in the team’s first preseason action against the Miami Dolphins. But in the two games since, he’s been mostly bottled up as the team makes efforts to get him serious work at running back and in pass protection. Smith has home-run ability, but that may translate only to specific situations where he can utilize his speed in space. The team has tried to use him as a standard running back this summer, with carries up the middle and being asked to step up in pass protection. In both regards, Smith has been ho-hum and thus he may continue to be used sporadically on offense, with the bulk of his workload still coming on special teams.
WR Courtney Roby
Signed to bolster the Falcons special teams unit in the absence of Drew Davis, Roby has been a disappointment. So much so that the Falcons brought back Eric Weems, the player that originally filled that niche for over three seasons in Atlanta. While Roby’s special teams play improved against the Titans, he’s been far from the maven he was reputed to be from his days as the New Orleans Saints special teams captain.