Preseason Week 1 Stock ReportA week ago, I discussed some of the players that bolstered their stock up or down during the first part of training camp. Now it’s time to look at which players did the same in the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of these thoughts were previously expressed in my offensive and defensive reactions article from a few days ago. But these are the players that I think really helped or hurt their stock when it comes to solidifying their respective positions and/or making an impression to earn a spot on the roster.
RB Ronnie Wingo – Wingo ran with authority and power while working with the third team units against the Bengals. He did drop one pass, and he’ll need to showcase that he can produce in the passing game if he has a chance to make the roster. That goes both for catching the football and in pass protection, something he didn’t get much opportunity to do against the Bengals. He took advantage of the absence of Antone Smith, who’s grip on the fourth running back position appears a little more tenuous. But among the backup running backs not named Jacquizz and Jason, Wingo appears to be the best runner.
OC Peter Konz – Konz had a nice debut at center against the Bengals, showing that he was capable in pass protection and run blocking. The beauty of being a center is that you don’t have to do a whole lot to look good. But Konz did all the right things, playing balanced and with leverage and getting good position as a run blocker. He’ll best tested even more this next week against Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Blocking Ngata is often like trying to block out the sun, nearly impossible. If Konz fares well against him, then things will definitely be looking up.
DT Corey Peters – After missing all of camp and the first half of the regular season last year with a foot injury, Peters appeared poised and ready to show out in his contract year. He did not disappoint in the opener, as the Bengals struggled to move the ball on the ground when they ran to his side. He has never been the sort of disruptive force up front that Jonathan Babineaux is (which was also on display against the Bengals), but Peters did show his ability to anchor and get off blocks at the point of attack against what is a fairly good Bengals blocking interior. He appears in regular season form, which bodes very well for Peters in 2013.
DE Jonathan Massaquoi – Massaquoi made a couple of nice pass rush moves against the Bengals backup offensive line. He made right tackle Dennis Roland look bad on his lone sack of the night, and had a couple of quarterback hits on other plays. Given that at one point in time Roland was a regular starter for the Bengals makes that accomplishment worthwhile. The interesting thing for Massaquoi is whether or not he’s going to be mixed into the first team units in upcoming preseason weeks. Biermann doesn’t really need the work, while Osi Umenyiora, who is still integrating himself into the system, does need some work. But the potential for Massaquoi to be subbed in makes sense to lighten their loads. It would be a good evaluation tool for the Falcons to see just how much they will be able to count on Massaquoi this upcoming season.
LB Paul Worrilow – Worrilow had a standout performance against the Bengals, and is one of the more impressive preseason performances I’ve seen. Surprisingly Worrilow worked as the team’s backup middle linebacker rather than Pat Schiller or Brian Banks and handled those duties extremely well. He made a number of impact plays as a run defender, and even had a few moments as a pass defender. He set the bar really high in his first performance, to the point that it probably would be unrealistic to think he could match it in upcoming preseason games. But if he does, then the question marks the Falcons had going into the summer with their depth at linebacker disappear.
CB Robert Alford – While he didn’t get the same “starter treatment” as fellow draft mate Desmond Trufant, Alford did manage to benefit from it. Alford got ample work with the second unit, and was the best among the team’s backups in the secondary on Thursday night. He was active both vs. the run and in coverage, and also had an opportunity to shine on special teams. It remains to be seen whether the Falcons truly intend for Alford to compete for the starting right cornerback spot with Trufant. That’s due to the fact that they pulled Trufant early in the game as if he was no different from William Moore, Asante Samuel, or Osi Umenyiora as an established starter. But if that wasn’t the case before the Bengals game, it certainly will give them pause for next week.
QB Dominique Davis – Davis looked erratic too often against the Bengals, similar to his performance in the preseason finale last year against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In short bursts, Davis has found ways to very play well, but for extended periods of times his play has been closer to average through his first two summers. The Falcons were counting on Davis to man the No. 2 spot this year, but after his first performance it seems like the odds have increased that the Falcons will keep a firm eye on the waiver wire for a veteran presence at the end of the summer.
TE Levine Toilolo – The truth is that Toilolo’s playing time in 2013 will be tied heavily to his ability as a blocker. And against Cincinnati, he struggled in that realm, both when working against the Bengals’ defensive starters as well as their backups. He’ll need to show improvement, else the Falcons will have to contemplate bringing in another blocker to replace the injured Tommy Gallarda, the only proven blocker on the roster.
OT Ryan Schraeder – After heavy praise from his work in practices the past few weeks, Schraeder was lackluster in his first NFL action on Thursday night. He looked a bit uncomfortable working at right tackle, after most of his training camp reps have come on the left side, the same spot he played at Valdosta State. Switching from one side to the other is not an easy task, especially for a player with as limited experience (only three years) as Schraeder. But there was a sliver of a chance that he could compete for the vacant starting right tackle spot going into the game, and that chance appears to have all but evaporated.
CB Dominique Franks – Given his status on the roster bubble, Franks really couldn’t afford to have any subpar performances in the preseason. He did so against the Bengals, getting beat badly by Dane Sanzenbacher on one of his many completions. Franks doesn’t have to fret too much because the two players he’s competing with for the fifth cornerback spot are Peyton Thompson and Terrence Johnson, neither of them had the sort of performance that could leap frog him. And that coupled with Franks still has a chance at punt returner because Alford did not shine there. Franks’ chances of making the roster have long been hurt by the fact that he doesn’t produce on special teams coverage, and thus he really has to show that his value on defense exceeds that lost value on special teams. His performance against the Bengals did not show that, and thus he’ll need to in the upcoming weeks.