The Falcons are expected to give some of the starters some work tonight. The new CBA and league-mandated rules limiting contact in practices likely is the main cause of this. Guys just aren’t getting as many reps as before to get ready for the regular season. The fourth preseason game used to be one where none of the starters played except perhaps a series or so. But nowadays, you can expect teams to give their starters a couple of series if not a full quarter of play. The Jaguars are planning on playing their starters for the entire first quarter. I would not expect the Falcons to do the same, but I do think we’ll see many of them get work.
My hope for Mike Smith is certain “essential” players will be rested. Matt Ryan doesn’t need to play tonight, along with a few others of our key offensive playmakers. We’ll see how he plays it.
QB Dominique Davis – Part of me wants some of the offensive starters to get reps tonight, but with Davis lining up under center. I believe the Falcons will give Davis most if not all of the snaps under center tonight. Davis has worked almost exclusively with the third string performers on offense, and allowing him to work with several of the players higher on the depth chart will be an excellent gauge as to whether he’s ready to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback this year. This is the main reason to keep an eye on Davis tonight. He has played well throughout the preseason. But another strong performance with some of the second team players could be enough to catapult him into the role of primary backup. It’s possible with a strong enough performance, that Davis can inspire enough confidence that this team doesn’t even keep Luke McCown.
RB Dimitri Nance – Nance needs a strong performance tonight to stick on this roster. He has run well this summer, but he’s working behind Antone Smith on the depth chart. Smith is the superior special teams player and has also had a strong summer. But Nance is not only fighting for his hopes of making the Falcons roster, but a strong performance tonight certainly could get him looks from other teams.
FB Lousaka Polite – It’ll be interesting to see how the Falcons handle their fullback rotation giving questions on how much the starters will play. Polite has seen increased reps with the starters since joining the team, and if he can showcase his trademark power tonight and help the runners have a big night, he could take the job from Mike Cox.
WR Kevin Cone/D.J. Davis – If the Falcons choose to sit both Roddy White and Julio Jones, that could mean that Cone and/or Davis could be elevated to the starting positions potentially depending on the health and availability of Kerry Meier. Among the group of wide receivers competing for the fifth spot on the depth chart, these two are the two most prominent. That fifth spot will more than likely go to the player the team likes the most on special teams (likely Davis), but a strong offensive showing from Cone could also force them to shift their thinking.
OG Peter Konz – The battle at right guard is not complete, and I believe the Falcons are really hoping for a strong outing by Konz in order to make the final decision easier for them. I think they want Konz to have the job, but he’s not going to be given that opportunity, he has to earn it. A good game against the Jaguars could be what does it.
OT Lamar Holmes – It will be Holmes second outing, and it’s possible if not probable that he could be asked to play every snap. I think Holmes is still working himself back into playing shape due to all the missed time this off-season, and those extended reps could do a lot to help him. It would be smart of the Falcons to also try and get him some reps at right tackle as well, since he’s likely to be the team’s swing tackle this year.
DT Micanor Regis – I think Regis is on the outside looking in as far as a roster spot goes, but I think has done more than enough to land a practice squad role with the Falcons. But another strong outing could make the Falcons decision that much harder. Ultimately it could lead to them keeping five defensive tackles, or possibly cutting a veteran like Vance Walker.
LB Akeem Dent – If any of the Falcons projected 22 starters needs reps, none of them need them moreso than Dent. Dent has had his ups and downs this summer, and needs to have a few more ups tonight against Jacksonville. Of the 11 projected starters on the defense, Dent is the only one where questions remain to exactly what the team has in him. Getting him more work in the nickel subpackage should also benefit his prep for the regular season. It might not even be about Dent having a good game, it’s probably just more about getting him as many reps as possible to get him ready.
S Chris Hope/Shann Schillinger/Charles Mitchell – All three players are potentially on the roster bubble, since according to my calculations, I’m not sure the Falcons can afford to keep five safeties this year. I think Mitchell is probably the safest of the trio, but Hope and Schillinger could be competing directly for a single roster spot. If any one or two of them emerge tonight, it could be what solidifies their hold on the team.