Not a Great Lasting Impression
by Whittier Wright (Arno)
DQ Too Optimistic?
Is rookie HC Dan Quinn too optimistic as the Atlanta Falcons undergo a total revamp of scheme, roster, and culture? Compare the more realistic view of fourth year HC Joe Philbin’s Miami Dolphins. The Fins were the better team in 2014, and with the maturation of QB Ryan Tannehill and the acquisition of DL Ndamukong Suh, they’re now viewed as a squad primed to unseat New England for the AFC East title. How did these two teams, at such different points in their development, fare against each other in the regular season’s touted dress rehearsal?
First, labeling Quinn optimistic is inaccurate. Much better to call him opportunistic. DE Clayborn, WR Hankerson, OLBs Durant and Schofield, are some of the free agent signings making the best of their opportunity. DE Hageman and LB Worrilow are two who’ve responded well to Quinn’s challenge to up their game. And WR Williams is an example of an unheralded player allowed to demonstrate his worth. A telling demonstration of Quinn’s opportunism came in his post-game interview when he lamented the team’s failure to finish, a quality he wishes to instill in preseason. A botched snap by QB Yates and a fumble by RB Smith spoiled excellent opportunities our defense provided in getting Miami’s offense off the field.
Check that OL Again………
Quinn’s opportunism is unflappable. While the rest of the world saw an o-line swallowed by a South Florida sink hole, he said, “Let’s go back and take a look at it and go back and see all the areas that we can improve, and that’s going to be the sole focus heading into practice on Monday.” He makes you want to believe the improvements will take place. But watching the performance of Falcons’s starting o-line of LT Matthews, LG Stone, C Person, RG Chester, and RT Schraeder, we saw a unit overwhelmed by Miami’s athleticism. Not since last year’s humiliation by the Bengals has the o-line been so dominated, and in that game Ryan was ‘only’ sacked twice. Last night’s damage, three sacks in four series, required his removal for personal safety. In addition to the shortfall in athleticism, the o-line’s lack of focus was evident in our tackles’ missed assignments– an echo of last week’s loss. Give credit to rookie RB Tevin Coleman, though. He showed good blocking would be optional for him: he can still make positive yards when swamped four yards deep in the backfield.
Leaps and Bounds on Defense
With the Falcons’ offense neutralized, we fans were astonished to see our team behind but one point at the half. Our two field goals were aided by a Miami fumbled snap and a OLB Schofield sack for fumble. Miami’s score came on a Tannehill drive consisting of well blocked quick outs and quick slants in zone coverage. Miami’s patched together o-line put Tannehill at risk, and necessitated the quick throws. Compare Ryan’s lone outstanding throw to Hankerson on a fake to Ward. For the most part, Ryan’s patched together o-line gave him so little time, he couldn’t set his feet.
After Ryan suffered a crushing punch to the flack jacket at the end of the first quarter, he was relieved by Yates who played three quarters. With Grossman upping the competion for the back-up QB role, Yates was given full opportunity to make his case. While Yates’ play at the Jets was challenged by repeated run game failures that put him in unfavorable down and distance situations, his failure to find the end zone in Miami was his own doing. Repeatedly high on his throws, unforced errors, and a slow release showed a lack of consistency necessary for the job.
Better Have Ugliness Now and Not Regular Season
Interviewed post game, Matt Ryan stayed positive, saying progress is all about how the team responds to adversity. Quinn will no doubt use the failings as an opportunity to learn and improve. The defensive side of the Falcons’ revamp demonstrates the culture is working. The emphasis on tackling, for example, is definitely heard: LB Worrilow on multiple tackles for loss, FS Allen delivering hits, SS Ishmael stepping up for injured Moore, DT Hageman shrugging off holds, and OLB Durant just killing it.
An unsportsmanlike, an illegal touching penalty, and a Williams-Hester collision will grant special teams coach Armstrong some blistering commentary for his unit, but strong play from Bradford, Weems, Stupar, and especially our kickers Bryant and Bosher, suggest special teams will be a strength of the Falcons this year. Hester had an aggressive game, fielding punts inside the five yard line, moves our previous head coach would have prohibited.
In a pregame interview, Miami HC Philbin said he looked for polish in the third preseason game. He also said, concerning the vulnerability Tannehill faced with a patched together o-line, that the first team needs enough snaps to prepare itself for the four quarters of a regular season game. The Falcons defense did much to warn Philbin of a lack of polish. The Miami defense did much to warn Quinn of a lack of survivability.
What’s happened to DE Tyson Jackson and RG Jon Asamoah? Any others you think are MIA?
Some are saying QB Yates helped his case. Agree?
How would you break down the o-line woes? Scheme? Talent? Needs more time?
Who do the Falcons snag as other teams make roster cuts?
What’s left to learn for the last preseason matchup with the Ravens?