Football is officially back!
From today on, there will be games every single week for the next six months. This is the closest thing to a holiday, without it actually being an official holiday. Let’s call it an American tradition, and the Falcons will be one of the teams kicking the whole thing off.
Tonight, Atlanta will open up their preseason in Canton, Ohio for the Hall-of-Fame Game against the Denver Broncos. If you’re hoping to see Matt Ryan face off against Von Miller; this isn’t the game for you. The starters will likely see no action, especially the ones that have been in the league for a few years. But if you’re a football junkie that gets a high over two teams hitting each other for sixty minutes – no matter whose name is on the back of the jersey – this is the game for you.
Dan Quinn sees this an excellent opportunity to see what the backups, rookies, and UDFA’s bring to the table. And I’m sure Broncos coach Vic Fangio feels the same way. Here are a few Falcons to watch out for that could play a substantial role when the regular season starts five weeks from now.
Chris Lindstrom– The Falcons took Lindstrom 14th overall and have seemingly already penciled him in as the starting right guard. If they decide to play him, it will likely be for a series or two, but Falcons fans should pay close attention to him when he’s on the field. The offensive line is going to be the key to how successful Atlanta’s offense is, and Quinn and Co. are expecting big things out of their first-round pick
Olamide Zaccheus– Zaccheus has been deemed by pretty much everyone the most exciting UDFA on the roster. The rookie put up monster numbers over his career at Virginia and has quickness that cannot be taught. The last thing the Falcons need is another receiver, but Zaccheus has been so promising he could push someone like Justin Hardy for their job.
Kurt Benkert– Benkert will probably see the bulk of the time under center tonight. He was a UDFA last season and has a chance to overtake Matt Schaub for the backup QB role in the future.
Qadree Ollison– We know Devonta Freeman will be the starter, but the backup job is an open competition. The two frontrunners are Ollison and Ito Smith. Tonight’s the first night for Ollison to give the coaches an up-close look as to why he deserves a role in year one.
John Cominsky– Cominsky is a fourth-round pick out of Charleston University. He didn’t play against much competition there, but his size and athleticism were enough to get him to the NFL. Now, let’s see how he lines up against men on the same level.
Kendall Sheffield– Sheffield was a fourth-round selection as well out of Ohio State. He and Damontae Kazee will be battling it out for the starting nickel corner job. Sheffield is speedy and loves to hit. He should be fun to watch this preseason.
Jordan Miller– Miller is another rookie corner, drafted in the sixth round out of Washington. He might need to bulk up before he is ready to contribute in the regular season, but he should get plenty of action tonight and the rest of the preseason.
Ra’Shede Hageman– A lot of people were surprised when the Falcons brought back estranged former second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman. The towering defensive lineman is getting his second shot with the team after two years off from football. This is his first opportunity to prove he belongs.