The Atlanta Falcons lost their 12th straight pre-season game this past Thursday night. This time, it was 19-7 at the hands of the Washington Redskins. While there were standout players in this game, as well as throughout the entire preseason, the losing streak should not be of any concern. Falcons fans have reasons for optimism.
Don’t Hit The Panic Button, Atlanta Falcons Fans
I don’t put too much stock into a 12 game pre-season losing streak. Some people might say it’s an indication of the depth (or lack thereof) of a team. This is not necessarily the case. Gameplanning and watching film on the opponent is not a priority at all.
Week 3 in the NFL preseason is usually viewed as a final dress rehearsal for the starters. Coaches will be looking for clean execution and positive production. There were plenty of positives to take out of this game. Below is a list of studs and duds from both training camp and the first three preseason games.
Matt Ryan came out on fire in this game. He was accurate and drove the offense down the field for most of the first half. It helped that he had a clean pocket, for the most part. He wasn’t touched for much of his playing time. This was a big improvement from the third game. Ryan completed 9 of 14 passes for 74 yards and looked very sharp.
Rooking running back Qadree Ollison looked indecisive in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH. However, over the last three games, he has made the most of his opportunities. Against Washington, he had 12 carries for 42 tough yards. Ollison had several gashing runs and has a tendency to drag defenders. With this performance, he has secured the #3 running back spot behind Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith.
He played very well in this game. So well, he should possibly be looked at as a starter. Jermaine Grace finished with four tackles, one quarterback hit, and one huge goal-line pass breakup. On top of that, he made several other excellent plays in the passing game. His sideline to sideline speed is off the charts. He fits the scheme and the mold of a Dan Quinn-type defense.
He was very good in run support and had two goal-line stops. He looks much better so far this preseason. This is something to build on. Perhaps he will benefit from a more aggressive defensive play-calling from Dan Quinn.
The entire starting defensive line played very well, specifically Takkarist McKinley and Jack Crawford. They both dominated consistently and forced continuous pressure. McKinley was in the right place at the right time and had a fumble recovery off of a Deadrin Senat quarterback sack. Combine that with Adrian Clayborn being a nuisance and creating some serious pressure.
Tavecchio missed his only attempt of the night: a chip shot 37-yard field goal wide left. He is now 4 for 8 in the preseason. At the professional level, there is no excuse to miss that. Tavecchio looks as though he’s not striking the ball cleanly for some reason. This must be corrected as Dan Quinn has already mentioned that the team is addressing the kicking game.
This was a forgettable night for two rookies. Both Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus are vying for the return job. Against the Redskins, they each muffed a punt in their own territory resulting in turnovers.
The Falcons need to clean this up, plain and simple. Nine penalties for 89 yards against the Redskins is not good. After their first four preseason games, they are the most penalized team in the league. Preseason cannot end soon enough for Atlanta Falcons fans.
Bring on the Regular Season
Fans have had enough of the preseason. Players have probably had enough as well. The final game this upcoming Thursday night will be the final rehearsal for players on the bubble trying to earn a final roster spot.
There are many positives to come out of both training camp and preseason so far. The offensive line looks much improved from games three to four. It always takes time to gel, especially when you have three new starters. The defensive line looks poised to have a breakout year with constant pressure resulting in sacks. This will free up the secondary and not place so much pressure on them.
The preseason is always a work in progress. It is mainly for coaches to evaluate rookies, veterans and roster bubble players. The real test begins September 8 against the Minnesota Vikings. Hopefully, the team gels in all three phases and the pieces fall into place. If that transpires, the preseason will be a mere afterthought for Atlanta Falcons fans.
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