Atlanta 13 / Pittsburgh 17
August 22, 2017
No big surprises Sunday during the second Atlanta Falcons preseason game. Once again, the first team offense came out on fire. After the defense caused a 3 and out for the Pittsburg Steelers, the offense took 10 plays and just over 4 minutes to score on their opening drive once again. Terron Ward ran in a 5-yard touchdown. Ward is definitely making his argument for the 3rd running back spot. Granted, Brian Hill, is playing with weaker blockers, but he is still not making great moves to prove his draft day statement of “being the best running back in the draft.”
Another draft pick that is not helping himself so far is Eric Saubert. Saubert had 4 penalties in 2 preseason games with limited catches for his targets. The tight end spot is really Austin Hooper’s to lose, and not looking like anyone is going to give him much competition at this point.
There were 13 different receivers this week, most hauling in catches from 3rd string, Matt Sims, who played most of the game. Interesting note, nearly all of the passes were for over 10 yards. Looks like the coaching staff is getting some good looks at the offense, as both Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel were in street clothes for the game.
The second offensive possession for the Steelers was the same as the first, another 3 and out. Duke Riley and Grady Jarrett were not letting anything happen. On the opening drive, Jarrett had a strip sack, which was ruled an incomplete pass, to force the Steelers first punt of the day. In limited playing time, Jarrett was swarming the ball and making ball carriers regret their carries. Riley finished with 2 tackles and 2 assists and was alert and focused enough to collect and down the blocked punt. Riley is living up to his hype.
Another defensive rookie that is living up to his hype is Damontae Kazee. From his corner spot, he had 3 tackles on the day and was contributing well on special teams, until going out with a sprained ankle. He had issues in training camp with his ankle, nothing too serious, but he will not play against Arizona on Saturday.
Possibly the most shocking statement I will ever say is, Falcons Special Teams is failing. Don’t worry, I don’t mean our dependable long snapper, or either of the Matt’s, but the rest of the squad was not having a good day. Whether allowing punt returns for touchdowns or allowing Matt Bosher’s punt to be blocked, the overall coverage was suspect at best. I am sure that Keith Armstrong will remedy this situation quickly. Realize that many rookies, drafted and undrafted, are seeing special teams time. The two players helping themselves the most with good returns are two locals, hometown favorite Reggie Davis out of Georgia and Andre Roberts from the Citadel. Davis also had 3 receptions for 74 yards, one impressive 44-yard catch.
Takk McKinley finally saw some playing time, and by that I mean 10 plays. While Takk did not log a tackle, he looked good, was getting in some good blocking and hits. Look forward to seeing him play more against Arizona.
Overall, the defense was fast and constantly moving the quarterbacks off their spots. And a week after De’Vondre Campbell’s interception, he causes a Pittsburg fumble, but the Falcons were unable to recover the ball in bounds.
The right guard battle is still tight with Wes Schweitzer getting the start this week, but sharing time with Ben Garland. I wonder if Head Coach Dan Quinn will actually name a right guard for the season, or they will divide playing time, as Garland is extremely versatile as a back-up center and occasionally helping out on defense.
In the end, it was the second preseason game, which is all about evaluations and after the first half a little rough to watch. Look out, the official opening of The Benz is Saturday, August 26th, game 3, where the starter will likely play into the 2nd half and the Benz will be rocking. Look for the largest crowd for a preseason game in the NFL this year.
Cover Photo: Atlanta Falcons