Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta vs Houston: Reviewing The Falcons Second Preseason Game

Well the Falcons second preseason game was a pretty gruesome affair to watch. A game littered with penalties and mistakes didn’t make easy viewing and seeing Sam Baker carted off the field only added to the feeling of pessimism. Baker’s injury is undoubtedly the biggest story from the game vs Houston as Baker is lost for the year and will now be replaced by rookie LT Jake Matthews. As like last week below is a position by position breakdown of the game.

Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan went 3-7 on the night but he wasn’t helped by drops from his receivers. Ryan missed Julio on a deep pass to the right sideline which he threw just a little too far outside for the receiver to catch but apart from that Ryan was his usual accurate self.

Sean Renfree was the second quarterback we saw and once again Renfree was solid if not spectacular. Renfree’s stat line (7-10) flatters him a bit as he was helped by numerous defensive penalties. As it stands Renfree looks the favorite to win the backup spot.

TJ Yates’ homecoming couldn’t have gone much worse. Yates threw two picks while never looking comfortable with the ball in his hands. Yates didn’t have the best blocking in front of him and on the first pick he threw it looks like a possible miscommunication with the receiver. The second pick however was totally on Yates as he stared down his receiver and threw a late pass across the middle that was easily intercepted. Like last week Yates was staring down his receivers far too much and it results in easy plays for the defense, if Yates wants any chance to win the backup spot he will need to play lights out the next two weeks.

Jeff Matthews saw a few snaps in garbage time and showed us all a glimpse of the rocket that he has for an arm.

Running Backs:

Jacquizz Rodgers only rushed three times but he was his usual steady self. The coaching staff made a clear effort to get Antone Smith more involved this week as Smith had 8 carries in the game, the most of any back. Smith looked ok rushing making a couple of nice gains early on.

Devonta Freeman was one of very few bright sparks against the Texans. Freeman once again showed the burst and vision that has Falcons fans so excited. Freeman’s night would have been even better if his long touchdown run wasn’t called back for what looked like a phantom holding call. Freeman arrived in Atlanta with high expectations and so far he is more than living up to them.

Josh Vaughn saw better blocking than he did last week but again he didn’t do anything to convince me he deserves a roster spot. Jerome Smith saw some limited action, he did make a nice catch for a 13 yard gain but we need to see more of him before we can make a proper evaluation.

Full Backs:

Patrick Dimarco made a couple of nice blocks on running plays early in the game but apart from that was pretty quiet. Maurice Hagens likewise was pretty quiet although he did show off his receiving ability with a nice catch and run for a first down.

Wide Receivers:

Julio Jones made his return and looked like he was just easing himself back. As already mentioned Julio got free on a deep route but he couldn’t bring in the ball. Jones looked a bit shaken up after the play but he went back into the game so he must have been fine. Later Julio took a big hit from DJ Swearinger on a catch over the middle but again he took the hit and seemed none the worse.

Roddy White got open on a pretty deep out route early in the game but after that he had a couple of drops and generally looked pretty lazy in his route running. Judged on his post-game comments Roddy doesn’t care at all for the preseason, I think 84’s earned the right to not give 100% during the preseason.

When the starters left the game the play of the backup WR’s was generally pretty poor. Again Geraldo Boldewijn saw the most snaps of any receiver, Boldewijn showed off his strength and YAC ability with a nice gain on short pass. Boldewijn also showed off his ability as a blocker making a couple of nice blocks. The team are giving Geraldo a lot of looks so there obviously is genuine interest there and he looks destined for the practice squad.

I’m starting to think the team is trying to hide Bernard Reedy. Reedy has been blowing up camp and he was hugely impressive week 1 and yet vs Houston he saw 3 snaps as a WR. If the team is trying to hide Reedy it would suggest they are trying to sneak him onto the practice squad which doesn’t make much sense as he deserves a spot on the 53 man roster.

Tight Ends:

Levine Toilolo had a pretty quiet night as a pass catcher as he didn’t record a reception. Toilolo impressed week 1 with his blocking but vs Houston he wasn’t as impressive.

Mickey Shuler after his impressive showing last week has been seeing some snaps in practice with the starters. Shuler again looked impressive as a pass catcher showing his ability to make the tricky catch in traffic. Shuler has pretty much won me round since the start of camp and I think he deserves the second TE spot behind Toilolo.

Offensive Line:

Obviously the biggest news of the night was the loss of Sam Baker who up until his injury had been playing well. Baker was beaten for a sack by Jadeveon Clowney where Cloweny just beat Baker off the snap with his insane first step. The starting offensive line looked improved as a run blocking unit this week and despite giving up a sack to Clowney they looked sufficient in pass protection. The good news was that Baker was replaced by Lamar Holmes who carried on his impressive play from last weel. Re-watching the game I really keyed in on Holmes and I was really impressed, he looks like a vastly improved player from 12 months ago and I believe he will be serviceable RT this season if Jake Matthews does indeed slide over to the left. One last thing to note with the starters, Joe Hawley got manhandled last week vs the run but this week Hawley was the premier run blocker so it was nice to see Joe Brawley correct his poor play from a week ago.

The second unit line wasn’t as impressive as last week. Holmes stayed at LT with the twos and was the clear standout player. Ryan Schraeder was the RT and he looked really poor in pass protection. Schraeder was beaten a handful of times that was mostly caused by his slow feet vs speed rushes. Schraeder looks good as a run blocker but based on his play this week I see no way Schrader can beat out Holmes for the starting RT job. Peter Konz played his best game in a Falcons uniform for some time. Konz wasn’t spectacular but he was solid and at this point with Konz that’s a victory.

Defensive Line:

Paul Soliai and Jonathan Babineaux were both solid in the snaps they saw. Tyson Jackson for the second week straight didn’t show much. I’m hoping once the regular season arrives the Falcons will play more 3-4 because that should suit Jackson more but so far this preseason the big man has not looked good. While Jackson hasn’t impressed one player who looks really good this year is Malliciah Goodman. Goodman was the Falcons best defensive player vs Houston as he caused them problems both as a run stuffer and a pass rusher. Goodman looks set to play a large role this year in the Falcons D and could potentially have a  breakout season.

Ra’Shede Hageman had another good showing with a nice game both vs the pass and the run. Hageman still occasionally has a bad play but he definitely looks like he’s learning. Hageman shouldn’t start this year but he should have a role as a third down pass rushing specialist which should be fun to watch.

Travian Robertson flashed his strength with a couple of very impressive bull rushes. I had him down as a camp cut a couple of weeks ago but T-Rob looks like he should stick on the roster as the backup NT.

Outside Linebacker’s:

Jonathan Massaquoi wasn’t as impressive as last week but he did force an incomplete pass with a nice pressure up the middle. Kroy Biermann for the second game running didn’t look good, Biermann still doesn’t look like he’s 100% healthy. Osi was going up against the backup Texans o-line but even still Osi looked good beating the LT on a couple of plays. Osi definitely looks leaner and quicker this year and he should relish his role as a designated pass rusher. Jacques Smith had a nice game particularly against the run as he impressively set the edge on a couple of run plays. Smith has been impressive during camp and it looks as though he has overtaken Tyler Starr on the depth chart. Starr got good penetration on a couple of plays but both times he missed the tackle, if he wants to make the roster Starr will have to start making those plays stick.

Inside Linebacker’s:

The starting duo of Worrilow and Bartu again didn’t totally convince. Bartu continues to miss too many tackles and even Worrilow was guilty of missing a tackle in the backfield. If Bartu wants to keep his job he needs to up his game or Prince Shembo will quickly take his spot from him. For the second week running Shembo looked ok if unspectacular. The only other player who stood out was Pat Angerer who made a couple of nice plays vs the run. Angerer could well make the roster as a backup inside guy and he looks to be in a direct battle with Tim Dobbins for that veteran role, as it stands Angerer looks the clear favorite for the roster spot as Dobbins hasn’t looked good on defense or special teams.

Cornerbacks:

Both Trufant and Alford got tested and both got beaten. Alford looked like he couldn’t locate the ball and Deandre Hopkins made the catch, Alford was flagged on the play to boot. Trufant was beaten on a double move and later there seemed to be a miscommunication between he and Lowery on the touchdown pass to Devier Posey. Alford did bounce back with a nice PD as he got to show his closing speed on what was ultimately an underthrown pass.

Josh Wilson saw a lot of snaps all over the formation but was pretty unspectacular. Javier Arenas made a nice play to sniff out a screen pass for no loss but other than that didn’t show a whole lot. Robert McClain gave up a third and long as he gave his receiver far too much cushion, McClain also dropped what looked to be an easy pick. Ricardo Allen and Jordan Mabin only saw a handful of snaps each.

Safeties:

Dwight Lowery played his first game in a Falcons uniform and looked understandably rusty. Lowery missed quite a few tackles in the box several of which would have been good plays if he had made the tackle. As mentioned above there seemed to be a mix up between Lowery and Trufant on the touchdown pass so it’s hard to know who to blame.

Kemal Ishmael is in a battle for the FS spot and he did himself a lot of favors with a nice game. Ishmael had an interception that shouldn’t really have stood as an interception but hey ho, it was a nice play from Kemal even if he didn’t hold onto the ball. It will be interesting just how strongly Ishmael can push Lowery for the starting FS spot.

Sean Baker and Dez Southward both saw snaps at FS but neither made any standout plays. Southward’s best play on the night was on special teams when he made a nice hit to limit the punt return to a short gain. If Southward can be a competent gunner this season it could potentially open up a roster spot for the Falcons which shouldn’t be underestimated with players like Starr and Reedy battling for a spot on the roster.

Special Teams:

The special teams units carried on their play from last week with a truly shocking performance. Coach Armstrong has a lot of work to do to get his units in shape for week 1 because right now they are a mess. The Texans blocked both a punt and field goal attempt, the blocked punt was returned for a touchdown. Players like Courtney Roby and Tim Dobbins were brought in to be mainly special teams aces but so far neither has looked at all competent in this sphere. Anyone looking to make the roster will do themselves the world of good with a good showing on teams the final two preseason games.

Overall a pretty disastrous game for the Falcons who it should be noted were playing a game after a long week of travel and practice at a foreign facility. Losing Sam Baker is obviously the big story line of this game but Lamar Holmes looks ready to step in and be that ‘next man up’ that teams so often preach.

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