By David Schiele
For the first time since blowing a 25-point lead in February, the Atlanta Falcons return to action against the Miami Dolphins to open the preseason. The “28-3” jokes won’t stop, but the Falcons have a chance to prove that they have moved on from the giant collapse and boast a good squad.
Here are the 3 things to look for in tonight’s pre-season opener.
If Takk McKinley plays
The Falcons first round selection missed rookie camp and the beginning of training camp due to school and recovery from shoulder surgery. And although Atlanta fans highly anticipate the pass rusher’s debut, they may need to exude some patience.
Not only is the rookie defensive end a game-time decision for tonight’s game, he’s listed as the third-string defensive end. So, if he does play, don’t expect him to play much, Nevertheless, just a couple third down snaps for McKinley could appease Falcons fans.
The Battle for Right Guard
The Falcons were the only team to have the same starting offensive line for every game in 2016. With Chris Chester’s retirement, that offensive line has a hole. Veterans Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer are battling to fill that hole.
Head Coach Dan Quinn said Ben Garland will get the first reps at right guard tonight, but will equally share playing time with Schweitzer. Look for who will provide the better pass protection and create more running lanes for the backs.
Each year, Falcons fans place extremely lofty expectations on a mid or late round draft pick. Rookie defensive back Damontae Kazee gets that nod this year. Upon the Falcons drafting him in the fifth round, twitter scouts and analysts praised the 24-year-old’s ball-hawking instincts (17 INT’s in college). The Falcons gave him first team reps at free safety and nickel corner in training camp. Expect him to play at both positions tonight in Miami.