Observation Deck: Atlanta Falcons

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
T.J. Yates made the Atlanta Falcons' backup quarterback spot that much more interesting.

Yates, who struggled miserably in his previous preseason outings, played like a savvy veteran in Thursday night's 24-14 preseason win at the Jacksonville Jaguars. While starting for a resting Matt Ryan and playing just the first half, Yates completed 15 of 20 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.

After a series with Sean Renfree to start the game, Yates got into a rhythm behind the first-team offensive line, save for right guard Jon Asamoah. He threw a perfect deep ball to rookie receiver Freddie Martino for a 67-yard touchdown. Yates connected with running back Antone Smith for a 66-yard score, but Smith did most of the work off a screen pass.

Although Renfree seemed to be ahead to secure the backup role behind Ryan, coach Mike Smith never ruled Yates out of the equation. The Falcons traded linebacker Akeem Dent to Houston in exchange for Yates, so obviously they felt he had some ability.

With roster cuts due by Saturday afternoon, the Falcons now have a dilemma. There's always a chance they could keep three quarterbacks on the roster. Whatever happens, the Falcons seem highly unlikely to cut ties with Yates after his strong showing. And if Ryan ever were to go down in a regular-season game, the Falcons might have more faith in a player with a playoff win to his credit, such as Yates, rather than turning to Renfree.

Here are a few other observations from Thursday's game:
  • Right tackle Lamar Holmes didn't do anything to lose the starting job. Once again, Holmes held his own in protection and played a big part in giving Yates time to throw. The other competitors, Gabe Carimi and Ryan Schraeder, didn't make any glaring mistakes, either. In fact, Carimi threw a heck of a block pulling from his right guard spot to clear a path for rookie Devonta Freeman's 1-yard touchdown.
  • The wide receiver battle between undrafted rookies Bernard Reedy and Geraldo Boldewijn never materialized. Boldewijn was in street clothes nursing a hamstring injury, meaning he'll likely end up on the practice squad, if anything else. As for Reedy, most of his opportunities Thursday came on returns, but he was unable to break loose for a big gain. Reedy is not a lock for the 53-man roster, but he's an intriguing prospect. Martino, the guy who made the big touchdown catch, was likely auditioning for another team.
  • The nickelback competition has to go to Robert McClain, who made a couple nice plays on the ball during his time on the field. Josh Wilson, who hasn't made many plays, was in coverage when Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles hit rookie receiver Marqise Lee for a 57-yard touchdown. Wilson rebounded and had a nice pass breakup later on. The third competitor, Javier Arenas, was rather quiet but has made some plays in the preseason. All three seem destined to stick.
  • Defensive lineman Travian Robertson again flashed, like he had throughout training camp. He had a nice tackle for a loss with the Jaguars driving in the red zone. The end result was Jacksonville settling for a field goal, which was missed. But Robertson also had a penalty earlier in the game when the Falcons were about to get off the field with a third-down stop. That was the last thing he needed.
  • Robertson wasn't the only bubble player to pick up a penalty. Fullback Maurice Hagens picked up a personal foul, while receiver Jeremy Ebert was called for an illegal block on special teams.
  • Rookie cornerback Ricardo Allen had a chance to make a play late in the game, but he dropped an interception. Allen, a fifth-round draft pick from Purdue, might end up being more of a practice-squad candidate due to the veterans in front of him.
  • Peter Konz will make the team as the backup center, but he had some struggles Thursday. He stepped in as the starting right guard for Asamoah and picked up two penalties. He also got pushed back trying to defend a twist by the Jaguars, and the end result was a sack allowed. But Konz had been rather solid this preseason.
  • Kroy Biermann had some flashes early in the game, combining with Paul Worrilow for a sack and almost picking off a pass in coverage. Biermann had been pretty quiet this preseason.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter



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