Preseason is all about individual evaluation, and I’m doing some of my own, position-by-position. I re-watched the Falcons loss to the Bengals again this morning, and took copious notes. And you will now see my copious write-up of what I took away from the offensive players. I will try and mention every player that played (and a few that did not), and give an assessment on where some of the position battles might lie with one preseason game down.
It’s the first preseason game, and I’m going to try not to overreact to the good performances, nor the bad ones. Several players that were unimpressive will have up to three more chances to reverse that, and certainly the opposite is true as well. Thus why I add the question mark after the conclusions I made since they are very loose ones. Nothing is concluded as of yet.
What I Saw: Matt Ryan was near-perfect, managing the game on his three offensive series. Seemingly his only mistake (barely so) being a rushed throw that was too high for Harry Douglas where Geno Atkins was in his face. Dominique Davis got the brunt of the work after that and started slow. Davis’ footwork and mechanics were iffy at times and his accuracy was off too often in this game. He made a couple of plays with his legs. He was able to get into a rhythm on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. But his only really good throws were mainly checkdowns and throws to his running backs. He struggled connecting with his receivers on downfield throws. He didn’t have great protection either. Renfree didn’t get a lot of work, making a nice throw on a rollout and having a pair of drops later. Seth Doege did not play.
Conclusion?: Overall, Davis didn’t do much to inspire a ton of confidence with his ability to handle the No. 2 spot, but Renfree didn’t get enough action to push him. How this position battle plays out will get an Act 2 next week as we’ll just have to wait and see if Davis improves.
What I Saw: Steven Jackson didn’t get good blocking up front with missed blocks on 2 of his 5 carries. Jason Snelling and Ronnie Wingo were the shining backs in this game. Snelling was able to stand out as a runner, receiver, blocker in pass protection, and on special teams. Wingo looked very good late in the game, showing good power and breaking tackles. He dropped one of Renfree’s passes. Rodgers didn’t do much, nor did Russell. Vaughan looked lackluster, as his tentative rushing style reminds me of the diminished Michael Turner minus about 40 pounds. Vaughn whiffed on the tackle on special teams that led to Sanzenbacher’s 71-yard punt return score. They’ll all have to step up in upcoming games.
DiMarco got most of the work at fullback and did a nice job hitting the majority of his assignments. Campbell did not fare quite as well, and also had a dropped pass from Davis that could have been a touchdown. DiMarco also flashed on special teams too.
Conclusion?: It was a strong debut for Wingo as a runner. The key to him making the roster will be showing he can contribute more in the passing game and on special teams. Antone Smith may not quite afford to miss next week’s game with Wingo on the rise. Bradie Ewing is injured and probably is still safe, but DiMarco did enough to think he has a legit shot at pushing him if Ewing doesn’t come back with solid performances.
What I Saw: Roddy White got minimal work, making a single catch and losing a first down. Harry Douglas got several targets from Ryan but besides his screen pass (42 yard gain), he wasn’t overly impressive with a couple of drops. None of the other receivers really got opportunities to shine given Dominique Davis’ erratic play. Drew Davis made a nice grab on a fade from Ryan in the first quarter. Kevin Cone and Marcus Jackson were each targeted 3 times but caught none as they didn’t get much help from their QB. Although one of Jackson’s catches could be considered a drop due to the ball going through his hands from a mistimed jump. Darius Johnson had a pair of drops. Martel Moore didn’t get much work until late and saw no targets to capitalize on his strong training camp.
Conclusion?: There’s really nothing to take away from the position battles, although Drew Davis probably remains ahead at the No. 4 spot, thanks in part to contributions on special teams. But the fifth spot remains wide open.
What I Saw: Coffman got the start, and Toilolo got plenty of workout with the starters and reserves. Coffman had a pair of catches, showing very capable hands. But his lack of ideal speed and quickness were also on display and at this point he appears to be an underneath outlet receiver (similar to Michael Palmer) rather than a guy that can beat man coverage and create mismatches in the passing game. Toilolo struggled as a blocker. His tall frame could easily use another 15 pounds of muscle, if not more. He didn’t impact in the passing game with no targets. Szczerba and Cloherty got reps late, but were primarily blockers. Cloherty was OK on special teams.
Conclusion?: The injury to Tommy Gallarda seems a little bit more worrisome given Toilolo’s struggles as a blocker. He’s no worse than Tony Gonzalez in that capacity, but you know No. 88 more than makes up for it with his ability as a pass catcher, where Toilolo is fairly unproven. Hopefully Coffman will inspire a bit more confidence in his ability as a pass catcher in upcoming games by making more intermediate and downfield catches, and doing a better job separating from coverage.
What I Saw: All eyes were on the right tackle position with Lamar Holmes getting the start. Holmes struggled a bit as a run blocker when working with the starters on the opening series (2 missed blocks). He would get re-inserted later in the game with the backups at the same spot, and do fine against the lesser competition. His pass protection was solid for the most part as I didn’t see him allow any hurries or pressures. It wasn’t an overly impressive debut, but given expectations weren’t super-high to begin with, I don’t have any complaints. Ryan Schraeder was underwhelming. He looked a bit more comfortable working at left tackle than he did in the second quarter at right tackle. I’m assuming he’s still adjusting to trying to flip his footwork/technique. He didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t stand out either. He was kind of just there. Sam Baker started at left tackle, and the only black eye he got was the hurry that forced Ryan’s high throw to Douglas. That was on a stunt by Geno Atkins, so with that understanding I’m not going to hold it against him. Terren Jones worked with the third team at left tackle and had a couple of mental lapses. He blew a blitz assignment which led to a sack of Dominique Davis, and was flagged for a false start. He flashed in run blocking as I remember him blowing up a linebacker on one of Wingo’s runs. But his technique and footwork isn’t as smooth as you want. Alec Savoie got work late in the game at right tackle and looked undersized against power in pass protection.
Conclusion?: The notion that Schraeder will be a legit contender for starting right tackle looks a lot less likely after this game. He’ll have a chance to rebound next week, but it seems that it’s far and away Holmes’ gig to lose. And if Holmes can play better next week, mot issues with him will go away. It’s not to suggest that he’ll be perfectly fine as a starter, as he’ll have his fair share of ups and downs this season. But I don’t think anybody really has to lose any sleep over the idea that he’ll be a liability this year. At least relative to what the Falcons normally feature up front (which is arguably a quintet of liabilities, but that’s another story). Schraeder definitely appears ahead of Jones as the potential backup left tackle, but didn’t inspire enough confidence to think the team won’t go looking for a swing tackle once cuts are made.
What I Saw: Blalock and Reynolds got the start, and both were made to look silly by Geno Atkins at least once. Reynolds gave up a hurry on a bull rush from Atkins on the very first pass from Ryan. And Blalock completely whiffed on a block where Atkins stopped Jackson in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. Again, it’s Geno Atkins so I’m willing to cut them some slack, but not a whole lot. Phillipkeith Manley and Harland Gunn got the second team reps. Manley is a massive guy that flashed at times as a mover in the running game, but looked slow and stiff in pass protection. He was lunging and grabbing and his footwork looked bad, but I think in the end he only gave up 1 pressure. Gunn was adequate. He looked good on the three or four times I saw him pull. He was just average otherwise when asked to block straight-ahead in the running game, and competent in pass protection. Matt Smith and Theo Goins finished the game. They were OK. Between the two, I think Goins might have looked a little better since he seemed to have a few impact blocks in the running game and was able to stone-wall a few defenders in pass protection.
Conclusion?: Overall, not much to takeaway here. At this point, neither Manley nor Gunn look NFL-ready in the sense that they could step in for either starter and be expected to be competent. But that would likely be a last resort since Joe Hawley would presumably be the top reserve at guard. Between Manley, Gunn, and Goins, all look like practice squad-caliber talent from this game alone.
What I Saw: Peter Konz probably looked the best of the five starters up front. He was able to get position consistently as a run blocker, and handled his assignments in pass protection. Thoughts of his struggling to fill Todd McClure’s shoes are evaporating. Hawley got second team work. He showed quick hands, but struggled to create any push as a run blocker. He gave up a hit later in the game to a Bengals pass rusher. Jacques McClendon worked with the third team. He was a little better in the running game, but was high on a shotgun snap and may not have done a great job calling out blitz assignments. Not a bad performance, but certainly not one that I would call good.
Conclusion?: Konz appears fine as the starter. And at this point, I’d expect Hawley and McClendon to try to get more work at guard to see if there’s any improvement over Manley or Gunn. Maybe even give Gunn some reps at this spot too.
The defensive reactions are coming…