Saturday, August 16, 2014
W2W4: Atlanta Falcons
By Vaughn McClure
The Atlanta Falcons (1-0) play their second preseason game against the Houston Texans (0-1) Saturday night at NRG Stadium:
Three things to watch:
1. Eyes on Jake: As the teams got together for joint practices this week, much of the talk was about how rookie right tackle Jake Matthews performed against pass-rush demon J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans' potent front seven. Matthews held his own and earned the respect of Watt and others. Now Matthews has to do the same in live action, no matter how many reps he gets against Houston's first-team defense. Since Matthews picked up two penalties in last week's game against Miami, one can bet he'll be even more focused to not commit the same mistakes again.
2. In the zone: Coach Mike Smith emphasized all week the importance of being more efficient in the red zone after the Falcons scored just one touchdown in four red-zone trips last week. It's unclear how long the starters will be in the game, but Matt Ryan seems content with the rhythm he has with his receivers right now. So it wouldn't be a shock to see him take a few shots in the end zone, especially if Julio Jones gets some action, as expected. The line has to block better in any goal-line situation, too. Jacquizz Rodgers essentially scored on his own last week.
3. Backup plan: If there's no clear-cut favorite between T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree for the backup role at this point, then one of them has a chance to establish a little separation Saturday. Last week, Yates was the first to enter the game behind Ryan. This week, Smith said not to read too much into which backup enters the game first. Yates, who was traded to Atlanta from Houston, seems likely to be more comfortable playing in familiar surroundings. But he's still getting familiar with the playbook and the inexperienced receivers he has to work alongside. Renfree is a sharp guy and has had his moments in practice. Smith wants the No. 2 situation resolved by the third preseason game.