What to Watch During the Falcons Preseason

The Atlanta Falcons‘ first preseason game is Thursday, August 11 at the Georgia Dome, and the team has lots of questions that still need to be answered prior to the start of the season.

The Schedule

GAME 1: Thursday, August 11 @ 7:00 in the Georgia Dome against the Washington Redskins on CW69

GAME 2: Thursday, August 18 @ 8:00 in FirstEnergy Stadium against the Cleveland Browns on CW69

GAME 3: Thursday, August 25 @ 8:00 in Camping World Stadium against the Miami Dolphins on NBC

GAME 4: Thursday, September 1 @ 7:00 in the Georgia Dome against the Jacksonville Jaguars on CW69

Will Matt Ryan look better?

Arguably the biggest story-line from last season was why Matt Ryan, at times, looked really bad. He seemed to be making rookie-type mistakes, especially in the biggest moments. The first example that comes to mind was the interception Ryan threw on their first play in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is the kind of mistake a rookie might make, not someone who has been in the league for eight years.

A lot of people have blamed Kyle Shanahan and his offensive scheme. If that is the case, then maybe after another off-season, things will work better. But for me, Ryan was just making silly mistakes; mistakes not caused by a playbook. Ryan held, and personally funded, a mini, optional camp in Florida during the off-season for a chance for the offense to gel together. 27 players showed up including Alex Mack (the new, all-pro center), Mohamed Sanu (the new #2 receiver to replace Falcon legend Roddy White), Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Jacob Tamme and Justin Hardy. Falcon cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford also showed up to help (it’s always good to have defense to help improve the offense). Hopefully that time working together will cause the offense to be better.

Has Tevin Coleman learned how to hold on to the football?

Tevin Coleman was expected to be the lead running back going into last season. But Coleman kept getting hurt, Freeman turned out to be a beast and Coleman could not seem to stop fumbling to save his life. Coleman only fumbled one more time than Freeman did last season (4-3), but Freeman had more than three times as many carries. Coleman, however, averaged 4.5 yards per attempt compared to Freeman’s 4.0. Coleman was taken in the third round in the 2015 draft and has clearly shown his talent. But it doesn’t matter how talented you are if you cannot hold on to the football. The Falcons have announced that they want it to be more of an even split between the two backs this season, so hopefully Coleman has learned how to hold on.

How does Vic Beasley look at linebacker?

This off-season, Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn announced that 2015 first-round pick Vic Beasley will be moved to outside linebacker. Beasley did not do a terrible job as a defensive end in his rookie season last year, but for the #8 overall pick, he needed to be better. Although Beasley did lead the team in sacks, it was with eight. Beasley has already proven that he has a tremendous speed-rush move, but he needs to gain at least one more move if he wants to be a good pass-rusher (maybe Dwight Freeney can help with that? more on that in a minute). Beasley’s move to linebacker is meant for when the team is in their base 4-3 defense, but when they move to their nickle package, Beasley will revert back to being a defensive end. The preseason will be a great way to see just how that transition is going, and whether or not he has learned any new moves.

How are the top draft picks looking?

The Falcons’ first pick in this years’ draft was Keanu Neal. Neal will be the starting strong safety this season, and after being the #17 pick in the draft, a lot will be expected of him.

The second selection for the Falcons was Deion Jones. Jones is listed as a middle linebacker, so he will be competing with incumbent Paul Worrilow, who has led the team in tackles each of the last three seasons.

Their third pick was tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper’s only competition is Jacob Tamme. Tamme is a solid tight end, but Hooper appears to have the potential to be a really good tight end, and Tamme is getting up there in age. Levine Toilolo is not really a threat to the starting job, unless he has learned how to catch.

The fourth pick for the Falcons was De’Vondre Campbell. Campbell is another speedy linebacker that will be competing for playing time, and with his skill set, and the lack of overall talent at the linebacker position, he can prove his worth during the preseason.

The next selection made by the Falcons was guard Wes Schweitzer. Schweitzer will get to use the preseason in an attempt to unseat either of the two returning starting offensive guards from last season: Chris Chester and Andy Levitre.

Their final pick was Devin Fuller. Devin Hester has been the Falcons return man for the past several years, but since Hester has been released, Fuller might have that job now. Julio Jones and Sanu will be the top two receivers, so Fuller will also have a chance to play a decent amount of snaps during the regular season if he plays well.

How will Dwight Freeney look?

I would really be surprised if he plays more than a series in the first game, but I am really excited about this signing. I think Freeney could really help Beasley’s development, especially if he could teach him that patented spin move. Freeney played well last year with the Arizona Cardinals. He had eight sacks (twice as much as anyone on the Falcons) and in just 11 games.

Who will be the backup QB?

Ryan is obviously the starter. But who will be his backup? The other quarterbacks on the roster are former Falcons’ QB Matt Schaub, last year’s backup QB Sean Renfree and Matt Simms. Schaub would be my preference, as he has proven that he can be at least a capable QB in the NFL.

But the most important thing to remember about the preseason…

FOOTBALL IS BACK!

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