Jamie Walker: Falcons Preseason Notes
THE SKY IS FALLING AND THE ATLANTA FALCONS WILL GO 0-16!! Really people, slow down just a little bit. The performance of our hometown team on the road against the Houston Texans was way less that stellar with the Birds returning home with a 32-7 defeat. Offensively, defensively, and on special teams the Falcons were outplayed. In any preseason situation you want to see improvement from game to game and you would be hard pressed to find that here.
Starting with the ugly, the knee injury to Left Tackle Sam Baker may be derailing his effort to go into the regular season healthy. Baker has been oft-injured since he was drafted by the Falcons and fans and pundits alike question whether he is the long term solution at that position, especially considering the franchise drafted Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M in 2014. At the time this article was written the status of Baker has not been disclosed, but the possibility of extended time away from the field does exist.
Wide Receiver Julio Jones saw his 1st game action since Week Five of the 2013 season and it looked like it. While visiting Falcons Training Camp you could see some of the “rust” from Jones but his talent eventually became aesthetically pleasing, causing one to say, “he’ll be just fine”. The reality is continuity must be rebuilt for the offense of the Falcons regardless of its potential. Jones did not run crisp routes, looked out of sync with Quarterback Matt Ryan, and only had two catches for 20 yards. Only time can solve this problem.
Defensively, the Falcons started strong with flashes of a pass rush but again it remained inconsistent. They also could not get off the field on 3rd down, something that has plagued this unit for quite some time. This defense as currently constructed will have to be addressed and will be the squad with more of an opportunity for those down on the depth chart to move up quickly.
Regardless of how Chicken Little some of you might be feeling, there was some good in this game. Running back Devonta Freeman drafted out of Florida State in this past draft looks like he is ready to take more of the load. The rotational guys for the Falcons at running back averaged over four yards a carry and Freeman stood out because of his hard running, nifty moves in the hole, and acceleration. He also caught the ball well out of the backfield which is key in the offense. If he can pick up the pass protection scheme, Freeman will play sooner than later.
On defense, Prince Shembo, Linebacker out of Notre Dame looks like he is ready to take his talents to the 1st unit. Shembo tackled solidly as he should, covered the intermediate areas in pass coverage, and showed some pass rushing ability. I believe that when this draft class is reviewed that he will be one of the better picks in the General Manager Thomas Dimitroff era.
Overall, everyone with high hopes for the 2014 Atlanta Falcons is thankful it is only preseason. However, the problems they have if not corrected could linger into the regular season. Special teams were terrible against the Texans, with a blocked punt and blocked field goal, just put a cap on what was an awful night for the Falcons. They will look to bounce back when they host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or you can reach him by email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.