After an all-around poor performance last week vs Houston the Falcons will hope to rebound with a solid performance today against the Titans. The Falcons starters should play the entire first half as well as one or two series in the third quarter so we should get a good look of how the team looks heading into the regular season.
Atlanta’s Offense vs Titans Defense:
The Titans new defensive coordinator Ray Hornton has switched the team to a 3-4 defense and so far the results have been mixed. Last week vs New Orleans the Titans played the run well but got abused through the air as backup QB Luke McCowan shredded the Titans secondary. Week 1 vs Green Bay the Titans were solid defending the pass but the Packers were able to run it down their throat. With Horton’s unit obviously still not firing all cylinders the Falcons should potentially be able to score some points on what looks a fairly shaky defensive unit.
Atlanta’s Offensive Line vs Titans Defensive Line:
After Sam Baker’s season ending injury last week the Falcons will get to unveil rookie Jake Matthews as the starting left tackle. Matthews has looked solid in both preseason starts and he is better suited to the left side and I would expect him to take the move in his stride. Matthews will be primarily be going up against the likes of Jurrell Casey and Kamerion Wimbley. Casey had a breakout season last year and he is a force on the interior. Wimbley isn’t Jadeveon Cloweny but he is a solid player and he should hopefully give Matthews a good test.
The other position to watch on the o-line will be Lamar Holmes who will come in and replace Matthews as the starting Right Tackle. Holmes had a terrible 2013 where he was forced to play on both the right and the left and he never really looked good playing either side. However Holmes seems to have turned the corner this pre-season as he has looked competent playing as the backup Left Tackle and hopefully he carries this good play on vs the Titans.
One last thing to keep an eye on will be the communication between the o-line which could be tested with new players in new positions. Last preseason the Titans repeatedly confused the likes of Holmes with simple stunts inside and so it will be interesting if the o-line has learnt its lesson from 12 months ago.
Titans Receivers vs Atlanta’s Secondary:
The Titans boast a very impressive trio of receivers in Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. Last week Hunter and Wright in particular looked very good. Hunter caught a pretty pass from Jake Locker in the corner of the end zone and Wright had a huge game and is being tipped by many to have a breakout season. With Javier Arenas supposedly getting the start at the nickel it will be interesting if the Titans target Arneas with a player like Wright from the slot as this looks a potential area they could exploit. If the Falcons secondary can contain the Titans receivers this will be a very positive moving forwards into the regular season.
Falcons Defensive Line vs Jake Locker:
Jake Locker has shown glimpses of what he is capable of since he came into the league but he has never been able to put a whole season together, mostly because he never seems able to play a 16 game season without ending up injured. If Locker stays healthy this year he could be in for a huge season as he has a stud offensive line in front of him, a trio of very good receivers and what looks to be a solid running game. Locker is primarily a pocket passer but he is more than athletic enough to make plays with his feet if he so chooses.
Through two preseason games the Falcons haven’t consistently got after any quarterback but vs Locker and the Titans they will have to get pressure more consistently otherwise the defense will be torn up by an extremely talented Titans offense. The onus to disrupt Locker will squarely be on the defensive line which hasn’t done anything to ease concerns about the pass rush so far this preseason. Mike Nolan will hopefully dial up a more aggressive gameplan this week and give fans a taste of the exciting, aggressive unit that he promised after last season.
One thing to really keep an eye on will be the defensive line groupings as players such as Malliciah Goodman and Ra’Shede Hageman still have roles that seem to be up in the air at the moment. For the first time in a couple of years the Falcons boast some solid depth along the defensive interior and it will be interesting how the coaches utilize this.
Pretty much every special teams unit looked awful vs Houston and Keith Armstrong must have been close to exploding by the end of the game. The special teams units have struggled all preseason and they will hope to rebound with a good showing today. With the first set of cuts just around the corner there will be a lot of players on the fringe of the roster trying to make a name for themselves tonight and special teams would be a great place to do that.