It’s time to look at which Falcon players have improved their stock and those that have not after the first preseason outing. This is mostly looking at who shined and who did not against the Ravens.
QB Dominique Davis – Davis benefited greatly from the lackluster night by both Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Besides Wilson running an effective 2-minute drill at the end of the half, both veteran passers looked very rusty against the Ravens. Davis showed some athleticism, using his legs to extend plays and also showed off his strong arm with some shots downfield. Davis still needs to polish up his footwork, mechanics, and tighten up his accuracy, but if he can build off last week’s performance against the Bengals, he will be in prime position to potentially earn a roster spot.
WR DJ. Davis – The No. 5 wide receiver spot will almost certainly be determined by special teams ability. And Davis stood out against the Ravens, particularly with his excellent open field stop when working as a gunner on a punt returner, tripping up Bobby Rainey in the 3rd quarter to cause a 1-yard loss on a Dawson Zimmerman punt. Kevin Cone looked to have the inside track at the spot, but Davis is making up ground.
OL Peter Konz – Konz had his moments when working at right guard with the second team offensive line, showing ability to get some push. He missed a block while pulling inside on a play, but then helped make up for with a good block downfield when he pulled outside on the next play. Konz had some struggles when he moved to center for the third unit. But if he’s going to make up ground against Garrett Reynolds for the starting right guard spot, he got off to a solid start.
DE Cliff Matthews/DE Jonathan Massaquoi – It’s possible if not probable that Matthews and Massaquoi could be fighting for one roster spot, with the loser headed to the practice squad. But based off each of their performances against the Ravens, they are in a dead heat. Massaquoi showed a much more explosive first step off the edge as a pass rusher, but Matthews displayed a good motor and the bulk he’s added this off-season helped him do a better job fighting off blocks. Matthews was very active against the run, showing his ability to chase ballcarriers in the open field to make a number of stops. Neither player has separated himself from the other, but both played well enough that the Falcons might be forced to keep six ends instead of their usual five.
DT Travian Robertson – He was very disruptive against the Ravens reserve linemen, showing his ability to get pressure and penetration. He would up with a pressure and 1.5 tackles for loss on the evening. In the absence of Corey Peters, Robertson has made his mark that he could be moving up the depth chart.
LB Robert James – James had a nice night, showing his speed and range as a chase linebacker. He had a few issues at the point of attack, but with the sixth and likely final linebacker spot being wide open, James definitely took a definitive lead in the race.
LB Stephen Nicholas – From his performance Thursday night, Nicholas is the front-runner to play beside Weatherspoon in the Falcons nickel subpackage. He broke up a third down pass over the middle to Ed Dickson, also made a good open field stop against Ray Rice on another third down to force another punt, and also was able to bust up a run to Rice with penetration although he missed the stop.
S Charles Mitchell – He made a few nice open field tackles (although he missed one on Rainey’s touchdown catch), and also nearly had an interception. He had a good debut and is hoping to beat out Shann Schillinger and Suaesi Tuimaunei for the fourth and potentially final safety spot on the depth chart.
QB Chris Redman – Redman’s roster spot is probably safe given the lack of experience of Wilson and Davis, but he looked the worst of the three reserves against the Ravens. To his credit, Redman saw the most pressure of the four Falcon quarterbacks, but unfortunately, that extra pressure seemed to rattle him and make most of his throws ineffective. Redman is going to need to have a bounce-back performance this week against the Bengals. Otherwise the Falcons might be paying too much attention to the waiver wire in the coming weeks if/when veteran quarterbacks become available.
OC Joe Hawley – Hawley got in early in the game after the Falcons pulled Todd McClure early, but Hawley struggled quite a bit when working as the pivot with the first unit. He looked shaky in pass protection and struggled to get leverage and push against the run. For Hawley’s sake, Konz and Tyler Horn both had their issues as well against the Ravens front later in the game. But a player that looked fairly safe to make the Falcons final roster, now Hawley’s hold on the roster might be a bit more tenuous.
OL Mike Johnson – Johnson had an opportunity with Lamar Holmes out of the lineup to really make a name for himself as the reserve right tackle. But Johnson did not have a great night. He wasn’t bad either, but it was clear that the conversion to tackle hasn’t gone without a hitch. The struggles of Hawley might give Johnson a bit of leeway, but right now as the depth chart stands he would likely be the 11th man in the rotation on a team that probably won’t keep more than 10 blockers.
LB Akeem Dent – Dent had a nice sack on the evening, but other than that play did not have a great evening. The concussion he suffered also is a setback, but even if he was healthy enough to play against the Bengals, he would need a strong performance. He struggled in coverage, and right now the gap between him and Nicholas as the potential second nickel linebacker is only likely to widen. Dent was caught badly out of position on two pass plays, including the Ed Dickson touchdown, as well as a 25-yard crossing pattern to Torrey Smith on 2nd & 11. Also hurting Dent is how strong Mike Peterson performed against the run with the reserves. At this point, Dent is far from a strong bet to open the season as the team’s starting middle linebacker.
CB Robert McClain – McClain was picked on quite a bit by Ravens passers. By my count, he was targeted 9 times. In his favor, he only gave up 3 receptions for 30 yards, but most of those incompletions came from bad passes not because McClain had good coverage. The fact that McClain was flagged three times for pass interference also did not help his cause. He was likely on the outside looking in to make the final roster, but with Chris Owens sitting out the Ravens game, McClain had a perfect opportunity to stake a claim. He missed the mark.