Preseason Observations Week 3: Falcons at Dolphins

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Miami Dolphins Friday night by a score of 23-6. The win marked the first preseason victory for the Falcons since 2010.

The third preseason game usually features the starters playing a bit into the second half, so it’s as close to a regular season game as you’ll get. Final score aside, how did the Falcons fare against a bad Dolphins team?

Let’s start off with the good:

– Matt Ryan went 18/26 for 220 yards and a touchdown – his stats for the preseason are 45/60 for 549 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Ryan looks like an entirely different quarterback, boasting a ridiculous 75 percent completion percentage and a 9.6 yards per attempt average. Despite being sacked twice, Ryan looked comfortable in the pocket, even eluding two defenders to fire a checkdown to Jacquizz Rodgers, who scampered for 18 yards.

– Oh, Julio Jones. The wide receiver still looks beyond impressive. On one particular play, Ryan heaved up an underthrown pass, but Jones made a nice adjustment for the ball for a 49-yard gain.

– Let’s not forget about the All-Pro wide receiver: Roddy White made a fantastic catch in the end zone from 20 yards out.

– Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill finished 11/27 for just 112 yards and an interception. It’s exactly what I wanted to see – when you have three good corners like the Falcons and you’re facing a Dolphins team starting a rookie quarterback and no wide receivers to speak of, it should be extremely difficult for that team to complete passes.

– Although the Falcons only notched two sacks, they were able to generate a lot of pressure on Tannehill. John Abraham beat Jake Long several times and managed to get to Tannehill once for a strip-sack. Lawrence Sidbury also managed to get a strip-sack when he was in the game.

– The secondary looked great (besides Dunta Robinson – I’ll get to him in “the bad” section). They prevented Tannehill from making any plays and flashed a bit of opportunism: Sean Weatherspoon tipped a Tannehill passed and Thomas DeCoud was there for the easy interception. Asante Samuel also made a nice play: he completely blew up an attempted screen play which resulted in no gain for the Dolphins.

– Matt Bryant is about as automatic as you can get. He nailed field goals from 45, 44, and 51 with ease.

– Kroy Biermann saw an extended amount of time and played well. His highlight was beating Long and bottling up Reggie Bush for a loss of four yards.

– Dominique Davis will make this team. The undrafted free agent only threw three passes, but he completed two of them. One of the completions was a beautiful 39-yard touchdown to Tim Toone.

– John Parker Wilson didn’t play one down.

And now for the bad:

– The Falcons defense had two penalties to start the game: one offsides penalty by Abraham, and the other offsides penalty by Weatherspoon. This team has to stop handing the opposing offense free yards.

– The Falcons offense stalled on several drives before finally getting into the end zone in the third quarter. They were able to march down the field with a bit of ease, but had to settle for field goals three times.

– Dolphins receiver Davone Bess had four catches for 57 yards; Robinson was “covering” Bess all four times. That’s a battle Robinson should win easily, yet he didn’t.

– Ryan was sacked twice, and both times Miami defensive end Cameron Wake was able to beat Tyson Clabo. It would’ve been nice to see Ryan not be sacked once during the preseason, but that’s not really plausible. The disturbing thing here is one of the best right tackles in the league – and easily the Falcons’ best offensive lineman – was the cause of both sacks. It was a bit out of character for Clabo, although Wake isn’t a pass rusher to scoff at.

– The Falcons offense had an 11-play, 50-yard drive that resulted in no points after they failed to convert a fourth and two by running a toss to the right with Rodgers. That was a mind-boggling play-call.

– Where was Ray Edwards? Biermann played a lot more than the prized free agent signing from 2011.

– I’m banking on the Falcons running A LOT of nickel packages; middle linebacker Akeem Dent looked completely loss at times.

– The offense managed to convert just six of 16 third downs.

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