Preseason Week 2 Preview: Atlanta vs Houston


Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of joint practices this week the Falcons play the Houston Texans tonight in a game which should give us a good indication of just how far the offensive line has progressed. Unlike last week’s preview I will try and keep this one as short and sweet as possible.

Julio Jones – The Return:

In the run up to training camp the word out of Flowery Branch seemed to be Julio would not play any preseason games but would be ready for week 1. However it appears as if Julio is further along in his rehab than perhaps envisioned by the training staff a couple of months ago and the coaches are obviously happy enough to let Julio stretch his legs against the Texans. Personally I’m a bit surprised Julio will see the field as I thought before we saw Julio play against another team we would see him practicing every day. The coaches obviously have a plan for Julio and I would think he plays a series this week before perhaps seeing extended reps next week vs the Titans but no matter how many snaps he plays this week my heart will be in my mouth.

The Offensive Line:

Last week the offensive line was solid on Ryan’s opening drive. Against the Miami starters the line looked competent in pass protection but the run blocking was shaky to say the least. Joe Hawley in particular struggled in run blocking as on a couple of occasions he was pushed into the backfield, keep an eye on his run blocking this week. The offensive line will have a lot on their plate vs the Texans as they tackle arguably the league’s best pass rushing duo in JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. It will be interesting to see if Sam Baker can continue his good play on from last week verses the pass rushing phenom that is Cloweny and how the newly formed right side of the line fare against one of the league’s best players in JJ Watt.

Free Safety Position:

Last week Kemal Ishmael was the starting FS as Dwight Lowery was out with a concussion. Lowery has returned to practice this week and so he should hopefully see some game time vs the Texans. A lot is riding on Lowery as Ishmael was far from convincing last week.

The Backup Edge Players:

One of the major positives from last week’s game was the play of the backup edge players. Stansly Maponga, Tyler Starr and Jacques Smith all played well vs Miami and as we saw on this week’s Hard Knocks episode the play and effort of Starr and Smith isn’t going unnoticed as Special Team’s coordinator Keith Armstrong was impressed with the work ethic of the rookie linebackers. Having made some noise this past week expect both Starr and Smith to see a lot of reps this week and it will be interesting how they handle the pressure now the spotlight is firmly fixed on them.

Is A Battle Brewing At Middle Linebacker?

Last week the Falcons started with Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu at linebacker. Despite only seeing a handful of snaps Bartu didn’t have his best game as he missed a tackle and gave up a third down pass both of which were picked up by the coaching staff. If Bartu wants to keep his starting job he will have to play better the next couple of games or rookie Prince Shembo could well steal the position away from him.

Prince Shembo has had a lot of hype through OTA’s and Training Camp and last week he put together an impressive debut. Shembo stepped in and looked comfortable as the leader of the defense. Shembo also made some impressive plays, the standout being a QB sack where he blew right past OG Billy Turner. If Shembo continues to impress vs the Texans he will make it very difficult for the coaches not to consider him as Paul Worrilow’s partner in the middle of the defense.

Special Team’s Coverage Units:

Last week the coverage units on Special Teams were abysmal. The Falcons took bad angles, missed tackles and gave up far too many yards on punt and kick returns. Keith Armstrong will have got into his players this week and expect a big improvement across all the Special Teams units this week.

Bernard ‘The Speedy’ Reedy:

Reedy only had two catches last week but averaged 30.5 YPC. Reedy has been beating players deep throughout training camp and he brings the Falcons an explosive threat that they badly need. Personally I feel Reedy has already done enough to earn a roster spot this year but another strong showing vs Houston would solidify his spot on the 53 man roster.