ATLANTA,GA- The Atlanta Falcons are now 0-4 for the preseason as they lost 20-16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Georgia Dome Thursday night. As predicted not very many starters even saw the field on Thursday. Matt Ryan wasn’t even in pads that night as coach Mike Smith wanted to preserve his starters for the matchup against the Saints. He learned this lesson the hard way last season when he played his starters in a game they eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Our mindset this year more than anything was to try to get to that game No. 1 as healthy as possible; we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that.” Smith said.
Losing the final preseason game is not that big of a deal, the real treat was that we got to see all of the potential of some of the rookies and free agents that night.
One of the things I was not expecting was for running back Josh Vaughn to make the team. With a limited amount of carries (just five) he ran for 83 yards and one touchdown. On his second carry of the night he busted through the defense for a 65-yard touchdown. Antoine Smith was reliable catching passes out of the backfield with four catches for 23 yards. Smith, along with most of the other running backs had a mediocre night on the ground, translating six carries to only 20 yards.
Very early in the game, Robert Alford made a good read on the route of the Jacksonville receiver and intercepted a pass thrown by Chad Henne. This moment cemented Alford as a viable backup to the veteran Asante Samuel. Maybe teams should give their rookies even more playing time in the preseason since most of them will never touch the grass in the regular season.
Jonathan Massaquoi made an excellent individual effort when he sacked and stripped the ball away from quarterback Matt Scott. He then proceeded to recover his own forced fumble and take it to the house from nine yards out.
What to watch
Sean Renfree was injured in the third quarter and ultimately that would spell the demise of his chance to earn a spot onto the 53-man roster for now as he was placed on injured reserve. This left Dominique Davis to finish the rest of the game as he didn’t look too concerned about actually winning the game.
A personal favorite of mine, Ronnie Wingo, couldn’t get it going as he had limited chances to produce. Now I’m not about to hit any sort of panic button yet, but Lamar Holmes is now the official starter at right tackle, according to the Falcons depth chart. He hasn’t had enough playing time or competition since the injury to Mike Johnson. Holmes needs a few more games before he is ready to protect chief investments like Matt Ryan or Steven Jackson.
The initial cuts that the Falcons made were the following: LB Brian Banks, G Theo Goins, DT Neal Huynh, CB Terrence Johnson, S Charles Mitchell, DT Micanor Regis, T Alec Savoie, LB Pat Schiller, K Jeremy Shelley, CB Peyton Thompson, and RB Ronnie Wingo. Brian Banks played a good portion of the game however he only had a pair of tackles and his performance didn’t quite stand out enough. His story for the Falcons will end here for the foreseeable future.
By the deadline the Falcons made their final cuts which included: FB Patrick DiMarco, LB Robert James, WR Darius Johnson, CB Jordan Mabin, G Phillipkeith Manley, G/C Jacques McClendon, WR Martel Moore, DT Adam Replogle, and WR James Rodgers. Surprisingly, among the players cut was the fourth-year-linebacker Robert James who had seven tackles in the preseason finale.
For those disappointed that their favorite rookie or unrealized talent did not make the team there were eight players that made the practice squad for the Falcons. These players are: FB Patrick DiMarco, QB Seth Doege, WR Darius Johnson, CB Jordan Mabin, G Phillipkeith Manley, DT Adam Replogle, WR James Rodgers, and TE Mickey Shuler.
Now with roster moves made, the Falcons can finally focus their game plan and personnel changes on the season opener with the New Orleans Saints.