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First person: Falcons-Dolphins preseason first thoughts
I took my older son to his first NFL game on August 12th. We joined a half-full Georgia Dome of Atlanta Falcons fans (and a few Miami Dolphin hopefuls) to welcome back the NFL. It was only the first preseason game, but it was full of important "firsts" for Falcons fans.
Do you remember Matt Ryan's(notes) first regular season pass? Michael Jenkins(notes) lined up wide to the left. He ran a skinny post route, and Ryan hit him in stride for a 62 yard touchdown. Rookie receiver Julio Jones is replacing the departed Jenkins as the starter. I told the guys at the office that Atlanta's first play would be a long bomb to Jones. Sure enough, the first play was eerily similar to the Jenkins TD, except that Ryan was off-target. Jones would have scored. But Jones showed more than potential. I was impressed with his three touches. He flashed speed on a crossing route and an end-around. He caught a deeper pass with ease and took on tacklers with no fear. The fans around me were repeating his name in awe.
First thing's first - run the ball
Call me old school, but I love the "we are going to jam this down your throat" running game. Over time it punishes a defense and keeps the other team's offense talking on the sideline phone and sipping Gatorade. It starts with a powerful, cohesive offensive line. The Falcons lost mean guard Harvey Dahl(notes) to the St. Louis Rams, but kept the rest of the line. For the first quarter, I was impressed with their play. They pushed the Dolphins around and gave Michael Turner(notes) room to accelerate. On his touchdown, though, Turner made his own room by punishing the Dolphin linebacker and sticking the ball across the line.
I really liked Jason Snelling(notes), Turner's backup. The Falcons re-signed him at a decent price and got a bargain. He runs well and earns tough yardage as a check down receiver. He will keep Turner fresh and do damage on his own. He is the type of player that championship teams usually have.
First team defense opportunistic
The Falcons' first team defense was without its big name acquisition, defensive end Ray Edwards(notes). For one quarter it didn't matter. The other defensive end, John Abraham(notes), grabbed a tip ball interception. Cornerback Brent Grimes(notes) again showed great ball skills as he snared another poor pass from Miami's Chad Henne(notes). Dolphin running backs found no room to run. The Falcons' defense only gave up one first down near the end of the quarter. Depth might be a concern, as the second and third units proved more vulnerable to the big play.
On the scoreboard the Falcons lost 28-23. The coaches will have plenty of material for a week of hard practice. The discerning fan, though, will not despair. The Falcons really came out first in what mattered. When it was starters against starters, the Falcons won 17-0.
I want my son to choose the Pittsburgh Steelers as his first team. But, we live in Atlanta. If the Falcons keep collecting this kind of talent and playing this well, they could soon reach another first - their first Super Bowl win. Maybe they could be my son's second team.
Sean Durity lives and works in the Atlanta area. He is a passionate Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but appreciates the quality of football being played by his hometown team.
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