The Falcons starters didn’t play much in Saturday’s preseason matchup with the Dolphins after two joint practices with Miami on Wednesday and Thursday. It was obvious as Miami’s mostly starting offense had their way with a mostly second-string Atlanta defense. Still, it is a preseason game, and there are no real schematics at play. The coaches just want an environment to be able to assess their players, which Terry Fontenot acknowledged after the game on FOX.
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot on FOX said the week with the Dolphins was "valuable."
Called it "effective work."
Fontenot said they sat players because preseason is about evaluation & development figuring out the 53.
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) August 21, 2021
I will be sure to put out several specific updates on position battles, stocks up and down, and other thoughts on the Falcons second of three preseason games. Until then, here are three takeaways from the 37-17 loss at Hard Rock Stadium.
The running back competition is fierce
Qadree Ollison didn’t have the eye-popping statistical night that would have people believe he played well, but he showcased his tough running style on his way to an impressive outing. There wasn’t much to unpack with him, but Caleb Huntley and Javian Hawkins are making it difficult on this staff as final cuts approach.
Much like Ollison, Huntley is a load and reminded everyone how physical a running back could really be, but what was unexpecting was his burst. The undrafted rookie had a nice game and displayed that ability to hit a second-gear on a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Huntley did fumble the ball as the only real negative I noticed. Hawkins, on the same fourth-quarter drive, showed a different running style than Ollison and Huntley. He contributed to the 75-yard drive and looked explosive, elusive, and electric. Hawkins still has my vote for the roster because of his big-play ability, but Huntley certainly makes a strong case for one of these final roster spots.
Jalen Mayfield and the left guard battle
The battle between Josh Andrews, Drew Dalman, and Mayfield is far too close to call at this point, but Mayfield took a step in the right direction against Miami. He played well at guard and looked much more comfortable playing inside than at tackle, though he looked fine there at the end of the game. I watched Mayfield as much as I could, and I believe he has enough right now to beat Andrews and Dalman out. Still, it is obvious he is developing physically and technically. His anchor in pass protection was encouraging, but there were moments where I felt his hands were too light as he was too easily displaced on some plays. Mayfield’s upper-body and grip strength will improve as his body matures, but these are struggles he will likely endure his entire rookie season.
The backup quarterback position could be cause for concern
AJ McCarron left the game during the team’s third offensive possession after a non-contact injury to his knee. Though he looked much better in the second preseason game than the first, it seems McCarron’s season could be over as many around the organization feel it is a torn ACL he suffered.
The feeling inside the Falcons organization is that QB AJ McCarron has a torn ACL… MRI later today to confirm pic.twitter.com/LlMvSf9VEW
— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) August 22, 2021
The MRI is probably just a formality at this point, but it is clear the Falcons will have to bring in another body to compete with Feleipe Franks, who looked poised in his first drive after coming in for McCarron. He threw a perfect ball to Tajae Sharpe in the endzone, which was eventually dropped. The rest of his outing was hit and miss. Franks was crucial to a touchdown drive completing a couple of passes and a well-timed scramble, but he also threw a bad interception and took a sack that resulted in a safety on other drives. I don’t think Franks is kept as Ryan’s backup, so our attention will go to whoever is brought in to compete with the undrafted rookie.