The Birds did not look pretty in tonight’s game. Some major concerns sprung up throughout the game as well as some impressive play.
Lamar Holmes is looking really shaky. I’m not going to throw down the “he’s terrible” card a lot of fans are throwing around, but he was responsible for three separate sacks. It wasn’t only Holmes though. Garret Reynolds, who looked great last year while he was healthy and horrible the year before that, looked less than pedestrian. Even the veteran of the O-line Justin Blalock got in on the suck. Lamar looked good at times, but looked dismal for the majority of the game. It might be time to dig into that emergency fund that Thomas Dimitroff had stored away.
The secondary also looked bad. Actually, it was mostly Alford. Trufant didn’t look spectacular, but he was doing alright. Alford, on the other hand, gave up three touchdown passes. Some of them he was nowhere near. From a guy that was considered in competition for the starting spot, he looked dreadful. This guy is going to have to play in games to keep the older Asante Samuel healthy and he can’t be playing like that.
The Run defense and the pass rush were all over the place. At the start of the game, I saw CJ2K get stuffed. The only decent run was by Jake Locker and Joplo Bartu made him pay for that with a forced fumble. There was a lot of pressure in the backfield too. As the game progress, that became less an issue. Johnson got his over 5 yards per carry and there were times that Locker had all day. I’m not really sure what to make of the game plan that Nolan had cooked up. It looked good in some areas and really bad in others.
I would comment on leaving points on the field where the Falcons made very good drives and ended up having to kick a field goal, but it is preseason, and that is time for testing. A lot of fans saw a failed attempt to score where I saw a test for Harry Douglas. I think the coaches wanted to see if HD could be a legit fourth threat on third down. I think they got the answer: No. The Falcons weren’t shooting for points in this game, they are testing all their players. Otherwise there would have been more than 4 catches by Julio and way more than only 2 catches by Gonzalez.
On the plus side, Corey Peters got into the backfield several times and even came down with a sack. If he can step up big this season, he and Babineaux may be a strong duo against quarterbacks.
Biermann, he drew concern from his lack of rushing talent managed two sacks. He’s an underrated player and I could have told you that from the beginning.
Joplo Bartu is handling himself extremely well as the starter for the day in place of Stephen Nicholas. The Linebacker depth doesn’t seem to be very thin at all actually.
But before you push the panic button again, keep in mind that Matt Ryan was sacked 7 times by the panthers that weren’t all that strong on the defensive front and still managed a win. Sometimes you have bad game plans; sometimes a few players just look awful. I don’t think that this means that the falcons will turn into the Packers in terms of the line, I think it only means that Holmes and the rest of the line have to get caught up quickly. I think they will.
Sometimes a team needs to learn they aren’t invincible. On a team like the Falcons, surrounded by good players and even listening to (sometimes) overly optimistic voices, it’s easy to be lulled to sleep. But any given Sunday, and given team can beat any other given team. It’s not easy to win. If a super bowl contending Falcons team played the New York Jets while starting Geno Smith without a game plan, or even just a poor one, they could easily lose. It may be very good if that wakeup call comes before the season actually starts. I don’t think you will see poor play like that for the rest of the season.
Try not to look at it too critically, there are lots of great things in store for the Falcons.