By Gabriel Watts
In what was considered the final dress rehearsal before the regular season, the Falcons didn’t really give us what we had hoped to expect in the coming weeks, at least not from an offensive standpoint. For a majority of the first two quarters, Matt Ryan was either on the ground or hurrying his throws because of an ever-collapsing pocket that didn’t give him a lot of time to make his reads. To Miami’s credit, their defensive line is very good and will probably end up ranking in at least the top 5 in the NFL. However, in my opinion, the Falcons could have put up a better effort and also could have shown a little more urgency with the regular season on the horizon.
Offensive Line Struggles
In Atlanta’s defense, they really haven’t established the starting five for the offensive line yet, so this makes it harder for our guys to gel together and form a solid unit. For this game, Coach Quinn surprisingly started Mike Person at center instead of Joe Hawley. Also, James Stone got the start at LG. They both struggled mightily, but as a whole, the entire offensive line was being pushed around all night. Again, the Miami Dolphins’ defensive line is very formidable, but that’s no excuse for the line to get thrown around like they did. The Falcons need to make changes and make them quickly. Maybe bring in outside help such as a Jake Long for depth, or return Jon Asamoah to the starting lineup. Either way, this is not the way the line should look going forward. This offense has so much potential with so many newly added weapons. However, no one will be able to see such potential if the offensive line can’t come together immediately.
Defense Shows Up
The one bright spot for this game was the defense. Besides a lone touchdown, the Falcons really didn’t give up that much to Miami’s starting offense. Adrian Clayborn stood out in particular with how he constantly created pressure and got into the backfield. If he continues to show up like this, he could prove to truly be the steal of free agency. Also, once again, Paul Worrilow was all over the field making plays. He has said over and over again that in this defensive system, he doesn’t have to think as much and can move more freely. It is clearly showing and for the once UDFA, this could prove to be a fun year if he keeps it up.
Finally, the last highlight play of the night on defense had to be when Tyler Starr and Joplo Bartu hooked up for a nice tipped pass and interception late in the game. Bartu, for one, hasn’t really shown up during the preseason, but Starr on the other hand, has shown that he can generate a legitimate pass rush. With these two both fighting for a roster spot, it will be interesting to see if Dan Quinn keeps one or maybe even both of them.
- Before the game, the Falcons announced that they had signed WR Julio Jones to a five-year contract extension worth $71.25 million dollars (47.5 million guaranteed). According to Adam Schefter, the Falcons had made Saturday the deadline for a deal to get done and to their credit, the Falcons got it done. The deal makes Jones the second highest paid WR in the league behind only Calvin Johnson.
- WR Nick Williams continued his strong preseason with another spectacular outing. Other than a miscommunication on a kick-off return with Devin Hester, Williams caught a couple of nice passes throughout the game. He is making it very hard for the Falcons to cut him. With him, the Falcons would have seven wide receivers going into the regular season, and that is a very real possibility. If they put him on the practice squad, Williams could be a sure bet to land with another team.
- Rookie RB Tevin Coleman finally made his highly anticipated debut. However, it was hampered by horrible offensive line play as Coleman could never really get anything going. After the game, Coleman said his hamstring is still only at about 80%, but he just wanted to get out there and play. Fellow RB Devonta Freeman was held out of this game and will likely be held out of the final preseason game on Thursday against the Ravens.
- The first round of roster cuts has to be completed by Tuesday, September 1st, as the roster has to be cut down to 75 players. We’ll see who stays and who goes as I’m sure Coach Quinn has some very tough decision to make.
Until Thursday…RISE UP!