Falcons-Bengals: Well that was good...good and terrible.
Only a crazy person would be falling to pieces over the Falcons lackluster first preseason game. That said there sure are a bunch of issues for the coaching staff to address.
O-Line: Lamar Homes along with guard Garrett Reynolds got pushed around by the Bengals starters in the first quarter. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins (when he stunted) proved too much especially when the Falcons tried to run the ball to the right. Steven Jackson was stuffed on a 3rd and 2 when one of the NFL's top d-lines crashed through on the right side. If line coach Pat Hill wanted to see what Holmes could do, no tougher test than those guys. It was never carved in stone that Mike Johnson was going to start at right tackle; Mike Smith had said it was a competition between Johnson and Lamar Holmes, the 6'6" monster in his second year out of Southern Miss. Losing Johnson and his depth at tackle sure hurts, but Holmes should be up to the task. For what it's worth John Gruden gave praise to Holmes for his work later in the game against the Bengals second team. Dave Archer has been talking up Ryan Schraeder the big man from the small school (undrafted tackle out of Valdosta St) who has been impressive so far at Flowery Branch, Schraeder also won high marks from Gruden in the second half. If the right side gives up more jail breaks against another elite d-line when the Falcons play the Ravens next week Thomas Dimitroff may be rethinking letting Tyson Clabo and his big cap number leave for Miami.
QB: Matt Ryan did everything you would want in a quarter of work (6/9 89 yds), but the man slated to back him up was not good. Dominique Davis who wowed Falcons fans with 2 touchdown throws and big scrambles last preseason in Miami was a discombobulated mess. An ill-advised pick and plenty of other poor throws in an 8 for 19 effort shows he has lots of work to do. I've mentioned it on the air a few times, what I've seen of Davis in practice hasn't been good either, really looks like he's pressing.
RB: Not much to say about Steven Jackson because even a physical specimen like him can't do squat when the Bengals defensive tackles are in the backfield. Jason Snelling caught one of Dirk Koetter's bread and butter plays, a middle screens for TD in the 3rd quarter.
WR: No Julio. But some nice throws to Harry Douglas who also had a drop. Drew Davis continues to impress. He makes a ton of nice grabs in practice as well.
D-Line: Mike Nolan started the game with a 3-4 look. Osi Umenyiora played defensive end standing up and looked good. Expect plenty more of that this season with all the read option/pistol/new look offenses the Falcons will see. Jonathan Massaquoi looked sharp with a sack and a bunch of QB pressures, he's a player who is being counted on to step up his game and compete with Kroy Biermann for snaps at the end spot opposite Osi. But you will see more of that d-line by committee from Mike Nolan, whose amoeba like D will feature Biermann dropping back into coverage as he did last night and lots of personal moving all around the field.
LB: While everyone has their fingers crossed for Brian Banks to make the team the story last night was undrafted Delaware's Paul Warrilow. Number 49 was all over the field in the second half making 11 tackles. He was one of the few bright spots as the defense struggled to control Josh Johnson and Dane Sanzenbacher's play making abilities.
DB/S: Desmond Trufant is the first round pick and more of the blanket cover guy, but I've been gushing over the swagger, big hit and bad ass persona that Robert Alford has shown so far at camp. I thought both rookies did a decent job, and you got to see Alford turn on the jets to track down the scrambling Johnson in the 2nd quarter. John McClain took a bad pass interference call (not bad on the refs, he messed up) and got torched for a TD, not a good night for the backup who stepped up big time last year.
Special Teams: Brutal. Coach Keith Armstrong will have plenty of screw ups to hit with the laser pointer in the meeting room. They made Sanzenbacher look like the return of Tim Dwight in the 4th quarter.
Sluggish, you bet. Concerns, bow howdy. But there's a month to get this stuff right. Fans freaking out over the offensive line might want to pop a Xanax because they’re going to see another elite defense next week in Baltimore. This is the roster Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are rolling with and based on their track record they get the benefit of the doubt...I'm more concerned with pass rush and linebacker play and stopping tight ends from running for miles after the catch...but if the right side of the line can't get squared away this could be a lot like 2011 where Matt Ryan got pummeled by good defenses.
Geez, I just started sounding like a Nervous Nellie there....Serenity now, serenity now.