The Atlanta Falcons’ starters looked nothing like they should’ve looked in Saturday’s 27-16 loss against the Tennessee Titans.
If there’s a preseason game to put stock in, it’s the third preseason game because it serves as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. The starters play the first half (and a little into the second half), and it’s the first game coaches actually gameplan for.
The Falcons are expected to be a Super Bowl contender, but Saturday’s game provided nothing but evidence to the contrary.
– Steven Jackson is a clear upgrade over Michael Turner. It was obvious since the signing, but last week’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens (8 rushes for 42 yards; one catch for 13 yards) and yesterday’s performance (12 rushes for 51 yards; three catches for 15 yards) solidify the aforementioned fact.
– Tony Gonzalez hasn’t missed a beat. The tight end played in his first preseason game, and promptly caught two passes for 21 yards. Any concerns from Gonzalez missing the majority of training camp were quickly dissipated.
– Julio Jones had a couple of miscues but looked like the same old beast. He hauled in four receptions for 81 yards including a big 42-yarder.
– Kroy Biermann showed up in a big way, leading the Falcons defense with seven tackles and two sacks.
– Corey Peters looked good as well and showed signs of returning to his 2011 form.
– Matt Bosher continues to boom punts.
And the bad:
– Asante Samuel left the game with a thigh injury, so Robert Alford was able to get plenty of playing time. The rookie responded by getting beat like a drum. He gave up three touchdown passes. While he did come up with a nice interception, it’s clear he isn’t ready to start in this league just yet. The talent is undeniably there, but it won’t be for another year or so.
– Matt Ryan was pressured constantly and sacked five times. The offensive line couldn’t pass protect at all, and that doesn’t bode well with the season opener looming. Lamar Holmes looked particularly bad. The plus side is they have a couple of weeks to figure it out. The down side is they have only a couple of weeks to figure it out.
– The first-team offense stalled in the red zone and was just 1/7 on third down. It’s something you don’t expect to see when Ryan is at the helm, but it was largely due to the amount of pressure the offensive line was giving up. The Falcons absolutely have to clean up that inefficiency.
Starters likely won’t play the final game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars next week. That means the issues the Falcons have will have to be fixed on the practice field, and we’ll see how they look once they take on the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome two Sundays from now.