The Atlanta Falcons have looked good in the preseason, so far, and they will look to continue their current form at home versus the Miami Dolphins on August 24. The Falcons (2-0) are one of eight teams that are undefeated after two weeks of preseason action.
Atlanta is coming off a 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns in Preseason Week 2 as the Falcons racked up 498 total yards of offense and an incredible 31 first downs. All nine of Atlanta’s offensive series lasted at least five plays and four of the drives netted points. The Falcons punted twice, fumbled once, and missed a field goal before ending the game with possession of the ball.
Atlanta’s three quarterbacks – Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, and Matt Simms – combined to complete 24-of-36 passes for 274 yards and one touchdown against Cleveland. The Falcons also ran for 224 yards on 41 carries (5.5 yards per carry). Defensively, Atlanta was just as good. The Falcons limited the Browns to just 1-of-8 on third downs and permitted 243 total yards of offense.
With cut-down day looming, the following is eight things to keep an eye on Thursday night. The game can be seen on NBC with kickoff set for 8 p.m. K Matt Bryant (muscle tightness), S Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) and RB Terron Ward (ankle) will not play for the Falcons against the Dolphins.
- SLB Vic Beasley Jr. is expected to be full-go
Beasley did not participate in the win over the Browns, due to a sprained AC joint. The No. 8 overall selection in 2015 draft is transitioning from defensive end to sam linebacker, where he is slated to start.
Atlanta is counting on Beasley to help the team get pressure on the quarterback this year. The 24-year-old had 4.5 of the team’s 19 sacks last year.
2. Linebacker position battles heating up
Paul Worrilow is still No. 1 on the depth chart at middle linebacker but is being pushed by rookie Deion Jones, while fellow rookie De’Vondrae Campbell is doing the same at weakside linebacker, where Sean Weatherspoon is currently the starter. Jones and Campbell started the game against Cleveland.
Vaughn McClure of ESPN believes Campbell will start Week 1 of the regular season against the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.
Campbell is currently second on the team with six tackles. Jones and Worrilow, along with Kemal Ishmael and Brooks Reid, are tied for third with five apiece. Weatherspoon is seventh with four stops.
3. CB Brian Poole
The undrafted rookie corner out of Florida has made a strong case to be the team’s starting nickelback according to Andrew Hirsh of the NFL.Hirsh wrote that Poole has impressed coaches and general manager Thomas Dimitroff with his aggressive playing style and technically sound football. He has four tackles.
4. G/C Ben Garland
The 28-year old veteran has demonstrated to be reliable and will likely make the team as Alex Mack’s backup at center, per Hirsh. Garland, who is a guard by trade, joined the Falcons’ practice squad last September. He appeared in eight games for the Denver Broncos in 2014.
Garland played college football at the Air Force Academy (2006-10) where he was a defensive lineman. He didn’t convert to offense until 2012.
5. RB Brandon Wilds
The undrafted rookie out of South Carolina is currently No. 5 on the depth chart but is making a push to be the team’s third back behind starter Devonta Freeman and backup Tevin Coleman.
Wilds accumulated 49 yards –including one run of 32 yards — and a score on eight carries against the Browns. He has tallied a touchdown in both preseason games and has totaled 75 yards on 18 attempts.
Ward and Gus Johnson are currently also listed ahead of Wilds on the depth chart, and Cyrus Gray is immediately behind him. Ward (ankle) has yet to play in a preseason contest while Johnson, who ran well against Cleveland, has averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Gray, in his fourth season, picked up 75 yards on 18 attempts (all versus the Browns).
6. QB Matt Simms
Atlanta is set at quarterback with starter Matt Ryan and backup Matt Schaub. However, questions remain whether the Falcons will keep two or three quarterbacks. If they keep three quarterbacks, Simms made a strong case for the spot against the Browns.
Against the Browns, Simms engineered four drives — all that lasted at least seven plays — that produced 14 points. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked twice as well.
Simms has a quarterback rating of 110.7 this season. He also has added 17 rushing yards on two attempts. Sims has played in four regular season games for his career, completing 48.7 percent of his passes for 195 yards along with one touchdown and one interception.
Sean Renfree is the other quarterback in camp. The 2013 seventh rounder has completed 5-of-9 passes for 101 yards. He made his NFL debut last year, going 3-for-7 for 11 yards and one interception in two games.
7. DT Joey Mbu
Mbu is on the roster bubble. The 23-year-old made some noise last week by sacking Josh McCown in the third quarter. Mbu is one of the biggest players in camp and has the potential to develop into an imposing presence.
8. Right guard battle
Incumbent Chris Chester, an 11-year veteran, is battling sixth-round draft pick Wes Schweitzer for the starting spot. Chester has recently recovered from shoulder injury and missed OTA’s. The 33-year-old has been on the field for just 32 snaps this preseason. Schweitzer, on the other hand, has played 109 total snaps.
[Photo by Brad Penner/AP Images]