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Reactions to Falcons-Ravens

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Konz stood out against Baltimore

Just like last week, I’ll post my reactions to the Falcons’ performances in their second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. For the most part, I thought the Falcons had a good performance. Here I’ll try to recount the performances of as many players on the roster as possible and some basic conclusions about how it could effect the roster and potentially the season.

Quarterback

What I Saw: Ryan saw some pressure in this game, but again the Falcons gameplan with the starters was to try and keep him from getting hit with some quick throws and reads. Ryan made several nice throws downfield in this game, hitting Jones on a 32-yarder. Davis played better in this game, but it appeared the Falcons were definitely trying to help him out with their play-calling. He didn’t make a read downfield until his fourth throw to Coffman near the end of the first half. Outside that throw and the throw to Drew Davis that he fumbled at the end of the first half, Dominique Davis didn’t make any throws that were more than 5 or so yards in this game. He made some good throws and some nice runs to keep the offense in rhythm, but his solid play seemed to be more a result of Koetter’s play-calling than Davis really playing at a high level. Renfree entered the game at the end of the third quarter and was erratic. He made a couple of nice throws that were dropped. He appeared much more willing to throw the ball downfield as only a few of his throws were 5 or less yards. His accuracy was too erratic however, but I like the willingness to pull the trigger on downfield throws, a desirable trait in an NFL quarterback.

Conclusion?: No Seth Doege in this game, which means it’s highly doubtful he sticks on the team or practice squad. I think Koetter’s defense of Davis earlier this week and his play-calling indicates the team is intent on using Davis as the No. 2 and are willing to work harder to make him look better. Renfree appears set as the No. 3 and I didn’t see anything in this game to suggest that the pair should flip spots. But it’ll be interesting to see how their battle unfolds next summer, which will hopefully be the next time we see them hit the field once the regular season starts.

Running Back

What I Saw: Everybody who touched the ball had their share of moments. Steven Jackson looked solid, being successful on half of his 8 carries. He also had a nice grab for a first down. Rodgers also was successful on half of his 10 carries and his second effort was the reason why the Falcons scored a touchdown, as that play wasn’t well blocked. Vaughan had a couple of nice runs and able to get big gains on plays where defenders were able to get penetration. He again made a mistake on special teams though, getting pancaked by LaQuan Williams which nearly blocked a Bosher punt. But Williams was flagged for running into the kicker, which bailed out Vaughan. Wingo and Russell each had a few nice runs. Smith didn’t do much on the ground, but did make nice plays on both of his receptions. They were throws in the flat from Davis and he was able to get big YAC using his speed on the edge. He also did some nice things on special teams coverage. While he may not be a better runner than any of the backs behind him, Smith’s value in the passing game and special teams appears to have much more immediate value to the Falcons than the others.

DiMarco once again got the start. While he can locate his assignments, he doesn’t have a lot of power to always be an effective lead blocker. Campbell doesn’t really have that problem, but instead struggles to locate his assignments at times. DiMarco also makes solid contributions on special teams.

Conclusion?: The battle at backup running back might come down to the wire (i.e. fourth preseason game). Smith had a nice performance after missing last week’s game, but he’s a fairly one-note speed back that is only effective on the edge. Wingo and the others appear to be a bit more versatile and effective up the middle. DiMarco hasn’t played well enough to think that he’ll take Ewing’s job outright, but considering Ewing hasn’t done anything yet in a Falcons uniform due to injuries means the battle still is open.

Wide Receiver

What I Saw: Julio was Julio. I didn’t see how Roddy White got injured, but I assume it wasn’t too serious. Drew Davis looks to have secured the fourth spot, making a couple of nice grabs. He fumbled on his one reception that could have set up another Falcons score at the end of the half. No one really emerged for the fifth receiver spot. Renfree appeared dialed in with Darius Johnson, so he was able to produce. But between the lot, Kevin Cone still seems to be the incumbent leader. He made a nice grab on a throw from Ryan, and is also showing the most in terms of special teams coverage.

Conclusion?: It appears the top four on the depth chart are locked in. Right now, I would give Cone still the lead for the fifth spot, but the Falcons should have no qualms about looking at other options on the waiver wire when the time comes. None of the other receivers have shown any sort of real upside in the preseason thus far to be worth developing offensively. Instead they all appear to be more in line with practice squad talent. This is another spot that may be unsettled until the final preseason game.

Tight End

What I Saw: Coffman had some issues blocking, as I counted a pair of missed blocks. Toilolo showed improvement as a blocker, but I wouldn’t call him good in that regard. He was decent at best. Colin Cloherty had a rough night with a pair of drops and missed assignments as a blocker. Had Cloherty caught both of those passes, he would have made Renfree look a lot better as they were two of his better throws on the night. Szczerba got reps and is a competent blocker, but didn’t do enough to really stand out in that regard.

Conclusion?: The competition at this position seemed to evaporate once Gallarda went down with an injury, and Cloherty’s mental mistakes probably nixed any outside shot he had at making the roster. Coffman and Toilolo collectively looked competent enough to get mixed into the lineup on occasion behind Gonzalez. But they don’t appear good enough to be regulars on offense, at least not any more so than Gallarda and Palmer were last year.

Offensive Tackle

What I Saw: Lamar Holmes had his hands full with Elvis Dumervil, but otherwise he had a decent game. Sam Baker was capable besides his false start and did a fairly solid job containing Terrell Suggs. Ryan Schraeder worked exclusively at left tackle in this game. He was also decent, but a pair of false starts didn’t help his cause. Alec Savoie struggled at right tackle, allowing a sack and a pair of pressures/hurries. No real work for Terren Jones or Jeff Nady.

Conclusion?: I haven’t seen enough out of Schraeder to trust him as the swing tackle. He does have developmental upside, but I think he needs a “redshirt” year at this point. Whether that’s being the fourth tackle on the depth chart or spending a year on the practice squad doesn’t really matter. I think he does have a future in the NFL, but he needs some more polish. At this point, I still expect the Falcons to try and sign a swing tackle once cuts are made next weekend.

Offensive Guard

What I Saw: I thought Justin Blalock and Garrett Reynolds were solid. Reynolds got beat badly by Chris Canty for a pressure, but other than that play he was solid and effective as a run blocker. Phillipkeith Manley and Harland Gunn got the majority of second team reps at left and right guard, respectively. Although Manley did rotate with Joe Hawley some on the left side. Hawley still looks a bit overmatched when asked to play guard, but seemed to get the job done. No one really stood out, although I did count a key block from Gunn. He still is at his best when he’s pulling. No reps for Theo Goins.

Conclusion?: I haven’t been overly impressed with either Manley or Gunn as reserves, but I don’t think they’ve played poorly either. I think based off their play in the preseason, one could consider it “settling” a bit though. Manley has more upside as a run blocker, but he’s a bit inconsistent with his technique. The Falcons could upgrade their depth once cuts are made, but it’s not necessary. But at this point, I don’t want either Manley or Gunn filling in if either starter is out for an extended period.

Center

What I Saw: Peter Konz looked really good blocking Haloti Ngata, consistently getting position against the All-Pro nose tackle. Any concerns over him being a downgrade for Todd McClure are gone, and frankly I’m now expecting him to be a significant upgrade if the preseason is any indicator. Hawley and McClendon got the reserve work here and neither really stood out. No reps for Matt Smith.

Conclusion?: Konz might already be the best blocker we have up front if judging only off preseason games. I was a little disappointed not to see McClendon get reps at guard, although that could change in the coming weeks.

Defensive End

What I Saw: The Falcons opened the game in a 3-4 with Jerry and Babineaux playing the end spots and Osi and Kroy playing outside linebacker. Neither starter stood out, although Biermann was active against the run. The pass rush wasn’t overly effective throughout the game, with Osi tallying a hit and Massaquoi a pressure off the edge. Malliciah Goodman had a couple of nice plays against the run, but looks limited as a pass rusher. Maponga was out of position a couple of times against the read-option by Taylor in the second half. I can’t blame him too much, it’s hard to prevent Taylor from getting the edge.

Conclusion?: It appears the Falcons are pretty set at this spot as far as the roster is concerned. Goodman looks ready to contribute against the run, but really I expect Osi, Kroy, and Massaquoi to get most of the reps here.

Defensive Tackle

What I Saw: Babs had a good night, able to get a pair of tackles for loss by shooting through the A gap. Peters and Jerry got reps but neither stood out. Cliff Matthews continued to get most of his work inside at defensive tackle. While he showed some decent get-off as a pass rusher, he’s still undersized against the run at the point of attack. Among the other tackles, only really Adam Replogle stood out with a sack and showed some disruptive ability. Regis, Huynh, and Robertson got reps but didn’t do a lot.

Conclusion?: Babs appears in regular season form. Jerry hasn’t played poorly this summer, but I feel like the Falcons could do so much better at the end spot when they go to their 3-man front. Replogle continues a strong bid for the practice squad, although I’m not sure he’ll make the roster.

Linebacker

What I Saw: The Falcons continued to work Biermann as the strongside linebacker. Nicholas appeared to split some early reps with Joplo Bartu as well. That doesn’t bode well for his future in Atlanta, but I think there’s a clear dropoff from one to the other. Akeem Dent did fine against the run. Paul Worrilow continued to play well, although he didn’t have as many impact plays as he did a week ago. Although an overturned call by the refs prevented him from getting a fumble recovery. Schiller and Banks didn’t get a ton of reps. Robert James sat out this one.

Conclusion?: Worrilow continues to appear to be atop the depth chart behind the starters, and based off his playing time, it appears Bartu is next in line. At this point, I think the Falcons would be making a mistake by cutting Nicholas in favor of one of the young players. But if they were to replace him with a veteran, then I might be fine with that.

Cornerback

What I Saw: Samuel got beat on Torrey Smith’s touchdown, but that play was more the fault of William Moore than Samuel. Otherwise, Samuel had a very good game with an interception and a pair of stops on third down that prevented conversions. Trufant didn’t really do much, but he didn’t have to as he wasn’t targeted once. Alford and McClain each got flagged for penalties. Franks broke up three passes including an interception, but did miss a tackle on the Ravens last offensive score. All of his positive plays came when he was lined up at right cornerback rather than in the slot. Peyton Thompson got beat on a 40-yard bomb by Taylor to Aaron Mellette. Thompson stumbled a bit at the end of the play, but it just was a good throw and catch by the Ravens. If Terrence Johnson and Jordan Mabin played, it was minimal snaps.

Conclusion?: Besides the two big plays, the Ravens pass attack didn’t play that well. Franks and Samuel both played well, and the former definitely increased his chances of sticking. Thompson giving up another long touchdown hurts his chances to overtake Franks. Nothing really new to add in the battle between Trufant and Alford for the starting position.

Safety

What I Saw: Moore whiffed on the stop that led to the Torrey Smith touchdown, stumbling as he tried to come downhill. DeCoud had a nice game. None of the backups really stood out, at least not in coverage. Charles Mitchell made a nice stop on Taylor on a third down at the end of the game to give the Falcons one more chance to win it. He whiffed on a block early on punt coverage that almost led to Bosher’s first punt getting blocked. Ishmael continues to be an active run defender and made a couple of nice plays on special teams. Motta also is comfortable defending the run up near the box. Schillinger didn’t do much. I really only spotted Troy Sanders on special teams.

Conclusion?: While the Falcons have a number of solid young reserves that can play special teams, none have really done much to inspire confidence that they can play regular defense if DeCoud or Moore get hurt. The Falcons still need to strongly consider adding help here when cuts are made unless someone really shows out next week.

Special Teams

What I Saw: Jeremy Shelley did a nice job on his pair of field goals and got a second half kickoff. He’s no threat to Matt Bryant, but he’s doing a good job getting decent tape out there to potentially land a job elsewhere. Bosher outkicked his punt coverage which led to the big return by Asa Jackson for a score. He continues to show a good strong leg and good hangtime on most of his kicks, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the team’s lesser cover guys have been on the field each time they’ve given up a touchdown. Alford had a nice punt return late in the fourth quarter to put the Falcons in good field position for the final drive. I thought Antone Smith, Kemal Ishmael, and Drew Davis popped the most on special teams coverage.

Conclusion?: It appears that the Falcons appear poised to have Harry Douglas or Alford return punts this year. Despite comments earlier that indicated that the Falcons would be reluctant to use Douglas as a punt returner, the fact that he continues to get the first half work seems to suggest otherwise. While Alford has flashed solid things, I do think Douglas appears to be a bit more trustworthy at this point.

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Author: Aaron Freeman

Aaron is the founder of FalcFans.com.

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