Next Friday, August 13th, the Falcons will host the Titans in the teams’ first preseason game. There have been notable stories throughout OTAs and training camp thus far, regarding the new regime and countless position battles. The first week of preseason is exciting for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it is the first of three rounds teams are required to make roster cuts.
August 17 — four days after the Falcons’ first preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 85 players.
August 24 — three days after second preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 80 players.
August 31 — two days after third preseason game
NFL teams are required to cut down to 53 players
Obviously, the transition from 80 players to 53 will be the most difficult, but there are plenty of other things to look forward to this preseason. Here are my five favorite things that I’ll be eager to see play out.
Joint practices with the Miami Dolphins
The Falcons and Dolphins will play in Miami during the second week of the preseason on August 21st, but the two teams will hold joint practices on the 18th and 19th leading up to their preseason game. Brian Flores is one of the better coaches in the league and has Miami firmly in the playoff conversation. For a first-year head coach, this will be valuable to gauge Atlanta’s roster. Some matchups I’m personally excited for:
- Xavien Howard vs. Calvin Ridley;
- Eric Row, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland vs. Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst;
- Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle vs. A.J. Terrell, Fabian Moreau;
- Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelen Phillips vs. Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary, Jalen Mayfield
Arthur Smith and Julio Jones make their debuts against their former teams
Arthur Smith is in Atlanta and Julio Jones is in Tennessee. The two teams will meet in the first week of the preseason, and though it is mainly for the players lower on the depth chart, it’ll be bittersweet for both sides seeing familiar faces.
Countless position battles
There are a bevy of position battles that could take all of training camp to figure out. The interior offensive line is obviously a hot spot for competition. Matt Hennessy seems to be edging out Drew Dalman, but there isn’t a clear-cut starter just yet. The left guard position is up for grabs and could be any of Josh Andrews, Jalen Mayfield, or Dalman. The right tackle spot should’ve been Kaleb McGary’s to lose, but with him missing some time, Mayfield has been filling in adequately, so that could be another battle to watch. The boundary opposite A.J. Terrell is up for grabs, though I expect Fabian Moreau to solidify himself there. Dante Fowler needs a running mate opposite of him, and the safety group could get shaken up if Richie Grant impresses early.
Which undrafted free agent stands out
Javian Hawkins, Caleb Huntley, and other undrafted free agents will likely have to beat out drafted or established players. Still, every football fan loves an underdog story. Many enjoy following one or two guys all the way through cuts in hopes of making the final 53-man roster. What is important to remember about guys like Austin Trammel, who has been complimented by Arthur Smith, is there is always an opportunity to make it as a practice squad guy and compete for a roster spot further down the road.
Seeing the new offensive and defensive systems
Arthur Smith is the first offensive minded head coach Atlanta has had in a long time. He was hired after two historic seasons as Tenneessee’s offensive coordinator, where he guided Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Jonnu Smith, A.J. Brown, and others to career years. It’ll be refreshing to see a complete play caller at the helm. On the opposite side of the ball, Dean Pees will have his hands full with this group. He’s notable for having successful defenses in his journey as a coordinator, but this will be his toughest task yet in terms of personnel.
You must log in to post a comment.