2023 Preseason: Winners and Losers from the Atlanta Falcons game against the Cincinnati Bengals

After a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals in preseason week 2, here are the winners and losers for the Atlanta Falcons.

Cincinnati Bengals v Atlanta Falcons
Cincinnati Bengals v Atlanta Falcons / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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The Atlanta Falcons played the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for their second preseason game and had a mix of performances throughout the night. The game ended in a 13-13 tie, but the winners and losers of this game for the Falcons were very disparate. The Falcons showed that they should have a solid first-string team, but the depth is starting to show with the competition all over the roster as well.

Winner: First-String Offense as a whole

The first-team offense was moving the ball extremely well down the field with a combined 106 yards on the first drive of the game. They were able to move the ball effectively and efficiently and showed chemistry developing in the first unit. The passing attack was most impressive, despite the interception, but that was due to a missed defensive pass interference. The Falcons should be able to continue this momentum into the regular season and really build the offense for 2023.

Loser: Referees

During the first drive for both teams, the referees were calling the Falcons for even the slightest mistake for a penalty. That being said, it's the preseason. let the teams play. It's not about calling everything. They need to understand that this is a glorified scrimmage and the Falcons and Bengals don't need referees trying to make the game about them.

Winner: First team defense

The defense did a fantastic job when the first string was out there. They allowed 52 yards and the Bengals to get into field goal range. But they were able to stop the drive on a fourth down with great play from the pass rush, and Dee Alford made a fantastic play in coverage. Ryan Nielsen really has this team buying into the defensive scheme and it looks like it's really starting to come together. Overall, the first team for the Falcons looks ready for the start of the season.

Loser: OT Jalen Mayfield

In a competition for tackle, Jalen Mayfield showed that—to quote Derek Zoolander—is not an Ambiturner. He can't turn left. He can't play on the left side of the line competently in pass protection and is a massive liability when he tries to do so. He allowed half of a sack right before the half and even had a false start in the two-minute drill. The Falcons' swing tackle doesn't seem to be on the roster at this moment. That's something that will have to be addressed moving forward.

Winner: EDGE DeAngelo Malone

The second-year edge has been very impactful in the preseason creating pressure whenever he's on the field. On crucial third downs in the second quarter, Malone was creating pressure to force bad throws on both plays that didn't convert. He also had a pressure on a third down in the fourth quarter to help force an interception. He's going to have a real shot at a job in 2023 and should see snaps in the rotation at a minimum. If he continues to make the most of his snaps as he did in the preseason, Malone could end up playing the starting role by the end of the year.

Loser: QB Taylor Heinicke

The Falcons backup quarterback didn't have a great night against the Bengals. There wasn't much pass protection but that doesn't excuse just how bad he was at placing the ball. He was wildly low on most of his throws to the point it looked like he was trying to pitch curveballs out there. It got better for Heinicke as he later threw an almost touchdown to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but he almost threw an interception on a pass to Penny Hart on what could only be called a hospital ball. He finished 13-for-21 for 162 yards and didn't have a touchdown or interception. A very mixed bag for Heinicke.

Winner: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ran with the second string and really showed why he could have a spot on the roster. He was run-blocking effectively and went out there and caught a pair of passes to set up first downs in advantageous positions. Arcega-Whiteside even almost scored a touchdown after he had an explosive 27-yard reception that looked like a touchdown on first watch. The Falcons have a battle on their hands, but they also might have a steal with the former Eagle who was a second-round selection back in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Loser: Pass Rush as a whole

After looking so good in the first week of the preseason, the Atlanta Falcons weren't able to build momentum with their pass-rushing schemes in the second week. They had just two quarterback hits and were only able to get one sack. The first string didn't even touch the quarterback. It might just be due to very vanilla pass-rushing schemes and the pressure was there, but there wasn't much violence with the pass rush during the game.

Winners: S DeMarcco Hellams

DeMarcco Hellams was all around the ball when he was on the field during the game versus the Bengals. He made a crucial pass deflection on a third down, made an open field tackle to close a drive on third down, and even had an interception in the fourth quarter. The Falcons have one of the best top-to-bottom safety units in the NFL, but it looks like it would be better on the bottom end as long as they keep Hellams in the group for the 2023 season.

Loser: Third-string defense

The third-string defense had trouble getting off the field on third downs. But even still, they only allowed three points. The Falcons had to bring in Ebiketie and Malone who might end up as starters by the end of the season just to get some pressure because of the lack of depth at edge rusher. However, this is nitpicking. Third-down efficiency is always going to be expected to drop when the second and third strings are in during the preseason. Not only did the third-string defense allow the only touchdown so far of the preseason, but they also allowed four of the eight third downs with their third-string in to be converted after allowing just one of four to start the game.

Winner: Logan Woodside

Logan Woodside may have only gone 4-for-6 for 57 yards in his limited action on the day, but he had some great throws to bring the Falcons into field goal range. He had a shot at potentially having the Falcons win the game, but Xavier Malone dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown. He did throw a dot to John Fitzpatrick to create a 25-yard explosive play that set up the field goal to tie the game right at the end showing some clutch chops.


All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.