The Atlanta Falcons will take on the Miami Dolphins tonight in their third preseason game, which is often used as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Each team does a smidgen more game-planning this week unlike previous exhibition weeks to better simulate what a game week will be like during the regular season.
Notably, both team’s starters will likely play the entire first half and potentially parts of the second. This third preseason game is often used as the measuring stick for what a team is likely going to be in the regular season. The Falcons’ starters have performed well so far this summer and they hope that excellence continues tonight against Miami.
Here are five Falcon players that are worth keeping an eye on tonight:
RB Tevin Coleman
Tonight’s game will be Coleman’s debut performance in a Falcons uniform, having missed the past two games recovering from a hamstring strain. Expectations are high for the 2015 third-round pick, especially given the struggles of the Falcons running game thus far in the preseason. The hope is that Coleman provides a spark with his ability to get yardage in chunks due to his explosive speed.
One issue surrounding the Falcons offense through the first two preseason games is determining whether the lack of a running game has more to do with the blocking or who is toting the rock. Coleman’s return tonight should help us get a step closer to solving that mystery since there are few questioning whether Coleman is a capable running back.
However a criticism of Coleman when the Falcons drafted him was whether or not he fit into the team’s new zone-blocking scheme. That’s something that may not be answered definitively tonight, but again, we’ll be a step closer to a conclusion. If Coleman has a big game in his debut, then it will quell such notions. Fortunately for Coleman, should he struggle to generate yards, much of the blame will likely fall on the Falcons’ blockers up front than him.
TE Jacob Tamme
The Falcons free-agent signee has yet to see a pass thrown his way in his two games of action thus far this preseason. With the Falcons’ starting unit expected to go the entire first half against the Dolphins, there should be a lot more opportunities for Tamme to see targets. Now to be fair to Tamme, he was indeed open on Leonard Hankerson’s touchdown reception last week against the New York Jets, but Ryan opted for an easier, more open throw to Hankerson for the score. The Falcons should make a more concerted effort tonight to get Tamme involved in the offense.
OG Chris Chester
Chester has had a decent preseason thus far and seems to have sewn up the starting right guard spot from Jon Asamoah. But he faces a big test against the Dolphins, where he will likely find himself lined up against Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for the majority of the game. Frankly, Chester needs to have a strong performance to allay concerns over the team’s apparent benching of their fourth-best player. While no one should expect Chester to shut down the four-time Pro Bowler, the hope is that he won’t be too much of a liability. That will inspire a lot more confidence in an offensive line that is currently the biggest concern on the Falcons offense.
DT Ra’Shede Hageman
I wasn’t as impressed with Hageman in the first preseason game as others were. So he’s a player that I will keep an eye on tonight. He should have a very favorable matchup against a weak Dolphins interior, where guards Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are considered the weakest links among their starting five. Hageman’s power and strength is unquestioned, it’s just a matter of application.
While Hageman doesn’t have a ton to prove as a player that is likely to be a rotational asset in 2015, he has been relatively quiet compared to other Falcons defensive linemen this summer. That is partially owed to the fact that he missed last week’s Jets game with a concussion but tonight he should get that opportunity with a clean bill of health.
CB Phillip Adams
While much of the attention has centered on the Falcons rookie corner Jalen Collins this summer due to his struggles, in reality there should be a lot more focus on Adams. He appears to be set to be the team’s nickel cornerback at the start of the 2015 season. Adams won’t play in the slot, where the Falcons appear prepared to move Robert Alford in nickel situations as they did in the past two weeks of practice. Adams has started for an injured Desmond Trufant at left cornerback in both games, and will do so again tonight against the Dolphins. While Adams has held up reasonably well, he hasn’t exactly been tested by quality quarterback and receiver play thus far this preseason. The Dolphins will be the best test to date to see if Adams is able to stand up against a quality offense.