These are some of the names and positions you should keep your eye on during the Falcons preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins tonight:
WR Julio Jones
It is no doubt that all eyes will be on Jones tonight. With Ray Edwards being held out, he is by far the biggest new addition to the Falcons lineup. He has been tearing it up in camp so far by all accounts, and fans should be eager to see if that early success translates to the field tonight. Jones will get first team reps, but it will be interesting if the Falcons pull the plug on him with the rest of the first team members early in the game, or get him some more minutes and work with the second unit.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers
The other big name from this year’s rookie class, figures to get some extensive reps on the ground. Rodgers should get some touches in the first half of the game, and fans should be eager to see his quickness and explosion as a runner and hopefully in the passing game. If the Falcons are re-incorporating the screen pass back into their offense, it would be an opportune time to break it out tonight.
TE Michael Palmer
Palmer has a chance to move up the depth chart if he can have another strong performance this summer. A big key for Palmer will be how much progress he’s made as a blocker if he hopes to supplant Justin Peelle as the top reserve to Tony Gonzalez.
OG Garrett Reynolds
He is in a competition with Mike Johnson, but with Johnson nursing a concussion, Reynolds has an opportunity to separate himself from the field with a strong performance tonight. Offensive line play is about continuity, and it’s hard to build that if two players are being shuffled in and out of the lineup beside Tyson Clabo. Reynolds and the Falcons offensive line are expected to get extended reps early in the game in order to build up some of this continuity. They will face what should be a good Miami front to measure themselves against.
DE Lawrence Sidbury & Others
With Ray Edwards sitting out tonight, the Falcons starting lineup at defensive end will look the same as it did a year ago. But the more important issue is the depth, and guys like Chauncey Davis, Lawrence Sidbury, and Cliff Matthews competing for what may amount to one or two roster spots. Sidbury had a strong summer last year, but it did not translate to regular season success. Picking up where he left off last summer will certainly help his cause. And rookie Matthews will also be under the microscope in the second half to see how he looks coming off the edge.
CB Dominique Franks
Dominique Franks and Chris Owens are competing for the nickel cornerback spot, and their battle will be one to keep an eye on early in the game. Owens is considered the incumbent, so Franks will need to find ways of outshining him throughout the preseason to unseat him.
P Matt Bosher
It’s been a while since the Falcons had a competition at this position, and it’s going to be up to Matt Bosher and/or Ken Parrish to fill Michael Koenen’s shoes. While Bosher is expected to win, this is one competition where the best man will definitely win at the end of the day since teams are fairly no-nonsense about their special teams play.