In the Falcons preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, there were certainly some things to take away from the game. It is obviously imprudent to read too much into these games, but based on what I saw early on, there are some very good conclusions to be made.
First thing that popped off the screen when watching the game was that Matt Ryan was under duress on the first two drives. I think this Bengals defensive front is very good even without Carlos Dunlap, and was able to generate pressure on the pocket. I think it was highlighted by the second offensive possession of the game when Matt Ryan faced massive amounts of pressure, dropped back twenty yards, and then completed a pass to Jacquizz Rodgers that went for a seven yard loss. Not only was Ryan under fire early, but the running game had a tough time getting rolling. Ryan didn’t take any sacks or any hits worth speaking of, but he was under pressure. My apologies to Bengals fans: your defensive front is very good. The Falcons offensive line didn’t do anything to bail them out, though.
The Falcons didn’t hesitate to use the screen pass. A running back screen to Michael Turner garnered decent gains, and wide receiver screens twice to Roddy White were extremely productive as well. We all clamored for more screen passes, and Dirk Koetter has acquiesced our collective requests. With that, the Falcons offense can offset the pass-rush a little, keep them on their heels, and keep more pressure off of Ryan.
One final thing about offense. In the third and fourth offensive series, the Falcons looked very comfortable, particularly Matt Ryan. He was sharp as a tack on those drives, and even though he threw his first incomplete passes of the game in the third drive, he was very effective and efficient. He utilized various personnel sets, play action, shotgun, and most importantly a healthy amount of the no-huddle attack. Ryan was hitting all of his receivers in spots where only they could catch the ball, and for solid gains. Even Michael Palmer collected a 21-yard catch. I think on the first two drive, Dirk Koetter was trying to work short underneath routes, but allowed Ryan to take some shots in the no-huddle. Ryan threw a deep pass down the left sideline that was extremely well covered, and placed the ball deep to Jones in stride. It was a little long, but it was in a spot that only Jones could get, and it showed Ryan can make that throw. Despite a dropped pass by Tony Gonzalez that would have resulted in a touchdown, the Falcons offense looked great on those two drives. Look at the back to back 16-yard pass to White and 23-yard post to Jones on the touchdown drive. Great series, great chemistry between Ryan and his receivers, great use of the no-huddle, and the great threat of deep passing plays to explosive receivers. Awesome two series.
I would never have thought this coming into the season, but Peria Jerry has been a force up front all throughout this preseason. He has been constantly applying pressure as a pass rusher from defensive tackle, been very good against the run, and been in on a great many tackles. We desperately need a third defensive tackle to play alongside Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters, and so far Jerry is looking like he may take that role. If he keeps up this, Corey Peters won’t have a spot when he returns from an injury, and will be the third guy in the rotation. If Jerry keeps this up, this could be a good situation to have.
I thought John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, and Ray Edwards were doing a great job of applying pressure on Dalton. The unfortunate thing is that they always seemed to be just a beat short of actually getting a sack. The pressure forces Dalton out of the pocket, to do things he didn’t want to do, and to release a couple throws before he really wanted to. No interceptions or the like, but eventually those pressures will turn into sacks. I also saw Abraham get blocked in the back on two sure sacks, so that and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee as the proverbial saying goes.
Coverage was something that the Falcons first team did a decent job of, but they got burnt badly once by A.J. Green. Earlier in the game, Dunta Robinson was matched up against Green, and lined up in off-man coverage. He left a cushion on Green that was eaten up and he only got slightly past the first down marker. That is definitely better than the alternative, which would be giving up a long touchdown pass. Asante Samuel played in off-man coverage, but he bit a little bit on a stutter & go route, and got beat by Green’s speed. He eventually caught up, but only after Green made the catch, and then got dragged into the endzone by Green. Not a good look for Samuel. However, he did have a couple deflections otherwise on the night. The other corner who looked really good? Dunta Robinson. He was good in space, and a fine tackler. I think this could be an up year for Robinson.
One final thing that absolutely has to be cleaned up for the Falcons is silly penalties. These aren’t the penalties that were poor calls by the replacement officials; these penalties that need to be cut out is ones like touching the quarterback’s head, late hits, offsides. It is very easy to eliminate hitting the QB in the head, and a penalty like that can lose the game for you at some point. It’s nothing serious, but it has to be addressed and taken care of.
Topics: Asante Samuel, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinatti Bengals, Corey Peters, Dirk Koetter, Dunta Robinson, Jacquizz Rodgers, John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux, Julio Jones, Kroy Biermann, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Peria Jerry, Ray Edwards, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez