They come from miles around the country, some even from parts unknown chasing their childhood dream five hundred in and five hundred out each year in the NFL. At this stage, game three of preseason the door starts to creek sometimes the wind blows inward other times it blows out. The goal is to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.
As we know the preseason is really about the rookies and players on the bubble. The core group of superstars Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett, and high draft picks are safe. The Jets Former #1 pick QB Sam Darnold started the night off picture-perfect leading the offense on an 8 play 66-yard scoring drive.
The Falcons started with some sparkle. Matt Ryan connected with Calvin Ridley for 27 yards on a perfectly thrown ball. But the drive stalled when Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. I could hear the collective thoughts from falcon fans, wondering if Matt Bryant former kicker and leading scorer in Falcon’s history had made that. One thing for sure field goals are no longer automatic.
Tavecchio on missing back-to-back field goals:
“Honestly, when you go out there, I don’t remember where the last kick was or where the ball was. I’m just locked in on Matt Bosher’s two fingers, so I don’t have an answer. I just go through the same process and try to hit the ball the same way. Sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. I struck the second one the way I wanted to. Most of the time, when you look up, it’s going down the middle. On that one, I looked up, and it just stayed down the hash. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
The second drive, Ryan felt the heat on the stove. He had to escape around the right end, on the next play he was sacked, followed by pressure that caused him to step up through the pocket to avoid the rush. He made the best of it with a little lob pass that showed his creativity on the move. It’s a revamped offensive line that draws major concern. In his brief time, Ryan connected on 10 of 11 passes for 118 yards. The numbers are impressive; however, the most critical stat “he was sacked 3 times”.
Coach Quinn shared his thoughts on Matt Ryan moving so much:
“Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it not good, tonight, not so good. The reason why? It was good for him because that is sliding and moving in the pocket, that’s part of playing the position, tonight there was a lot of pressures and blitzes. I think that’s good for us, because, it tests you, get you to do things, puts you through some of the rules, but what I can say is, that he finished something like 10 of 14, and a couple of those were drops.
This guy is dialed in, you don’t want him to get hit, but you need that readiness for him. He is as dialed in, as he has ever been, about his performance, his technique, his mindset. He is 100% ready to let it rip. So we will get them some more work, those nights like tonight help get you there, to that space where you are really ready.
That’s kind of where you grow in some of those uncomfortable times. You got to push yourself and put yourself in there, and he is more than willing to do that time and time again. I was encouraged by what I saw from him.
Quite honestly from Shaub too, on the touchdown drive he cut his thumb, early he got hit, and you saw him go. He didn’t bat an eye drove the team down. I thought those two tonight really came through, in a way to show their readiness to play no matter the situation no matter the defense. I am quite sure it matters if you have played as long as they have and seen as much as they have they didn’t get wide-eyed one bit.
In sports talent is king, but one of the most important ingredients to success is chemistry, especially on the offensive line. It has to be so intuitive; you have to know our assignment based on the situation to the point where you and your fellow lineman can’t think, instead of reacting based on the integrity of the assignment, and how it affects the play, almost to the point where you both guess correctly at the same time. T
There is only one way to obtain that, and that is experience playing together, which means there could be some hard knocks are on the way. Again, Ryan was sacked 3 times in one-quarter of play.
The injury bug reared its ugly head. Damontae Kazee delivered the hit of the game rocking running back Ty Montgomery at the goal line, immediately he ran for the sideline with a dangling shoulder.
Russell Gage extended with great effort to catch a Matt Ryan pass, but he was buried into the turf he laid on the five-yard line before he was escorted to the cart. An injury was not in his game plan to impress he is in a battle for a roster spot. The preseason can be harsh sometimes it boils down to an injury which can be devastating to one player but an opportunity for another.
Matt Ryan On Gage being more of a prototypical receiver at this point:
Yeah, I think so. He is, I don’t know what they were doing at LSU, but he can play that role. He can definitely stretch a field vertically. He’s got great hands, physical hands. The catch he made last week, going up and getting it on the sideline, that’s what he brings to the table. It’s a really good change up to the group of guys that we have in there. It’s another big, physical guy that can make plays down the field.”
Dan Quinn allowed the offensive starters to play longer than I expected. However, they needed work. On the 10 play 55-yard scoring drive, there were 3 penalties, a fumbled snap at the 4-yard line. Another perfectly thrown ball hit Justin Hardy dead between the palms of his hands wide open in the end zone. He dropped it like a hot potato, and maybe his chances of remaining on the team bounced along the ground.
Either way, he is going into his fifth season with the Falcons, but young talent such as Olamide Zaccheaus, Khalil Lewis, and Russell Gage are hungry and looking to eat. Most of the starters flashed in and out during the first quarter, of course, no Julio Jones. Devante Freeman made his return to the field coach Quinn said
“He has been begging for it, he didn’t get any last week, he was very much looking forward to that. What we did find is It helps to get the guys ready, almost everybody needs some readiness to go, it doesn’t matter if it’s a half, a quarter, or a few carries, but those moments help you get there, so when the season starts, this ramp-up process for them is important.
It doesn’t mean you have to get tons, but some guys need some quarters to get ready, some positions don’t require as much. He knows he is one that likes how it feels to get going, and some of the plays he likes, so it was great to have him out tonight.
Quadree Ollison led the rushing attack picking up 44 yards on 9 carries. He may be auditioning for another team or perhaps a contingency plan Ito Smith and Brian Hill appear to be solid backing up Freeman.
Defensively, It was great to see the Vic Beasley of old contribute a sack displaying that deadly first-step speed and fight off a block to get to the quarterback.
Coach Quinn wasn’t happy with the way the defense started but thought they came back. The team committed 12 fouls 4 in the first half but 12 by the end of the game. They ended with -3 yards on tackles for loss but did not create any which was the story of the game.
The good news was Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Devante Freeman saw their first action of the preseason after missing significant time.
Key Facts of the GAME
- The offensive line gave up 3 sacks
- Giorgio Tavecchio missed two 52 yard field goal attempts
- Matt Ryan put up decent numbers 10/11/118 yards
- Vic Beasley contributed a sack
- Devante Freeman returned to the field
All Photo’s by: Jamie Thompson