Saturday, August 16, 2014
Observation Deck: Atlanta Falcons
By Vaughn McClure
HOUSTON -- The return of wide receiver Julio Jones for the first time since last year's season-ending foot fracture was overshadowed by yet another key injury to an Atlanta Falcons starter.
Left tackle Sam Baker went down with a right knee injury in the second quarter of Atlanta's 32-7 preseason loss to the Houston Texans. He had to be carted off the field.
Baker, who missed 12 games last season with a left knee injury, grimaced as he was unable to put any pressure on his leg.
The last thing the Falcons needed was an injury along the offensive line, but guys like Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder might get a chance to prove their value over the next two preseason games.
Jones, however, looked fine in his first action since last October coming off foot surgery. He caught a pass over the middle on the second play of the game for a 6-yard gain. Jones played four series and caught two passes for 20 yards while being targeted four times. He caught a deep ball down the right sideline but couldn't get both feet down in what would have been a long gain.
Matt Ryan completed 3 of 7 passes for 37 yards with a passer rating of 59.8 and a long throw of 17 yards to Roddy White. He was sacked once.
Yes, it's the preseason, but it's never a good thing when you lose to a team that was blown out 32-0 last week against Arizona.
Here are some other thoughts on the Falcons' second preseason game:
- The defense was horrendous at times, with poor tackling, blown assignments, and a lack of pressure leading to a handful of big plays surrendered. Texans starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, not exactly among the league's top-tier quarterbacks, completed 9 of 12 passes for 97 yards and an 8-yard touchdown to receiver DeVier Posey between Falcons safeties Dwight Lowery and William Moore. Even steady cornerback Desmond Trufant allowed a big play to happen in front of him. Both Trufant and fellow starter Robert Alford got hit with defensive holding penalties in the game.
- The positives on defense included an opening three-and-out, with nice tackles by Moore, Lowery, and Paul Worrilow, and some solid pressure from Osi Umenyiora on a couple of plays.
- The first-team offense struggled on third down, and J.J. Watt wasn't even on the field for the Texans. When Ryan was in the game, the Falcons went 0-for-4 in such scenarios, including one in which Ryan was sacked by Texans rookie Jadeveon Clowney after Clowney beat Baker. Twice, Ryan couldn't connect with Jones on third down, although Jones did catch the one ball mentioned above but couldn't get his feet in.
- Devin Hester showed his value as a receiver when he caught a quick screen pass from backup Sean Renfree in the second quarter and danced his way to a 12-yard touchdown. Remember, Hester did not play on offense as a member of the Chicago Bears last season. He still has his quickness and breakaway speed at the age of 31.
- Safety Kemal Ishmael continued his strong preseason by picking off a pass near the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter. He was ruled down upon making the nifty pick. If projected starter Lowery continues to miss tackles like he did Saturday, Ishmael could find himself in the lineup because the Falcons definitely like his tackling ability.
- Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong might have a headache right about now after watching punter Matt Bosher get a punt blocked by Houston's Anthony Denham and returned 17 yards by Jonathan Grimes for a touchdown. Then kicker Matt Bryant got a 51-yard field goal attempt deflected.
- Rookie Devonta Freeman continues to show flashes of his great potential. He broke tackles and showed great vision on what appeared to be a 23-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the play was called back following a holding penalty on wide receiver Julian Jones. Freeman also showed some tenacity when it came to blocking in pass protection.
- Quarterback T.J. Yates, the player the Falcons acquired in a trade with the Texans for linebacker Akeem Dent, didn't help his chances of securing a backup role. Yates almost got his first pass picked off. Then, he stared down his receiver and threw a pick-six as Texans cornerback Andre Hal took one back 64 yards for the score. Yates threw yet another interception with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Renfree looks like a much better option behind Ryan.
- There was a Ra'Shede Hageman sighting as the rookie defensive lineman made a nice play on a tackle for loss in the third quarter. Hageman showed great quickness and fight on the play.