Tonight the Atlanta Falcons will have their second preseason action of 2015 against the New York Jets. Here are five Falcons players that are worth keeping an eye on in tonight’s contest.
WR Roddy White and TE Jacob Tamme
With the Falcons starters expected to play well into the second quarter, White should get a lot more opportunities to participate in the offense than he did a week ago against the Tennessee Titans in the preseason-opener. On just eight offensive snaps, quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t look in White’s direction once.
There has been some discussion and speculation that White doesn’t have a lot left in the tank and the Jets game will be an opportunity to prove his skeptics wrong. He’ll likely be covered by veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie in tonight’s contest, a player that has been struggling by many accounts this summer in his reintegration back into the Jets defense. White by no means needs to dominate Cromartie, but needs to show that he can be an integral part of the team’s offense while working against a proven starter.
Like White, Tamme was not very involved in the Falcons’ first-team offense a week ago. With increased reps, he should have more opportunities to prove himself as a reliable outlet for Ryan.
OG James Stone
Stone and the rest of the Falcons interior blockers should get a break from the absence of Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson tonight, but the Jets aren’t lacking in other playmakers up front. Top draft pick Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson are still expected to be in the mix among the Jets’ starters, as well as former Washington Redskins starter Stephen Bowen. This will be a good test for Stone, as he’ll see prolonged reps against some proven players to determine if he’s truly ready to handle a starting position.
If so, it should cement his hold on the starting job and push the Falcons to start making phone calls in regards to veteran guard Jon Asamoah.
OLB Brooks Reed
Should Reed get the green light to play tonight against the Jets, his work with the starting defense will be worth greater scrutiny. Reed has missed much of the offseason and training camp recovering from a groin/hip injury. As the team’s biggest free-agent addition if judging by contract size, expectations are high that Reed will smoothly integrate into the team’s defense this season. But there’s also a reasonable expectation that there might be some rust in his first game action. If that rust is minimal, then there should be a high level of optimism that Reed can be an impact defender this season.
CBs Jalen Collins and Phillip Adams
It’s likely that the Falcons will start Collins tonight in their nickel sub-packages given that he played that role all week in practices. If so, he’ll sub in at right cornerback when Robert Alford moves into the slot. That should give Collins chances to match up with starters Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, particularly the former who typically lines up on the left side of the field.
Collins struggled in his first NFL action against the Titans, but will be looking for redemption this week. Although Marshall isn’t quite the playmaker he was a few years ago, he still serves as an excellent litmus test to see if Collins is ready to be the Falcons’ nickel during the regular season.
Both Jets receivers will also be a good litmus test for Phillip Adams, who right now appears the likeliest candidate to be the team’s nickel behind Alford and Desmond Trufant on opening day. Adams wasn’t really tested against the Titans starters when he replaced Trufant at left cornerback, but should be this week against the Jets. While he appears ahead of Collins right now, he’ll need to prove it on the field against his former Jets teammates. At left cornerback, Adams should see numerous chances to cover Decker, who will also play in the slot when the Jets deploy three receivers. Adams should see the more favorable of the matchups when the Falcons deploy three corners, since Quincy Enunwa will likely line up outside when Decker moves to the slot.