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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Long ago, I learned not to read too much into preseason games. I saw Tampa Bay teams coached by Sam Wyche look good in the preseason and then hit double-digit losses in the regular season.
But I am going to take one thing seriously out of Saturday night's preseason game between the Falcons and Chargers. That's the Atlanta defense.
It didn't look good at all and that's a growing reason for concern. We all knew the Falcons would be entering this season with five new starters on defense and that means there is going to be some transition.
But shouldn't we be seeing some positive signs by now? Probably. But we haven't. In the only preseason game that really matters (because the starters play a fair amount), Atlanta's defense struggled. Yes, San Diego has a good offense, but LaDainian Tomlinson wasn't even playing. It didn't matter because the Chargers barely ran the ball.
They were throwing it and throwing it very well. In the first half, the Chargers had somewhere around 250 passing yards. That's not good news for any defense and every offensive coordinator the Falcons face in the regular season will be watching the video blueprint of how to carve up Atlanta's defense.
The Falcons aren't going to go out and blow up their defense at the end of the preseason. They're going with what they've got and that's a little scary. They could have gone out and grabbed some blue-chip defensive backs in the offseason. But they didn't.
They're going with Brent Grimes and Chris Houston as their starting cornerbacks and Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud as their starting safeties, for better or worse. If the Falcons are going to make the best of this, they need to do some of the same things they do with their offensive line. They don't have a tremendous amount of talent there, but they make the most of it because they hide their weaknesses.
They need to do the same thing with the secondary. The best way to do that is with a pass rush. They've got an elite rusher in John Abraham, but they need more than that. They need third-year pro Jamaal Anderson to step up from the very start of the season. Anderson was a top 10 pick in 2007 and he'll be on the bench if he doesn't start quickly.
The Falcons have Chauncey Davis, Lawrence Sidbury and Kroy Biermann as alternatives to Anderson. One, or some combination, of all those defensive ends will have to step up or the secondary really might be in trouble.