Cynics will tell you that you’re crazy for putting too much thought into what happens in NFL preseason action. Number-crunchers will tell you that the Atlanta Falcons went 1-3 in last year’s preseason and finished the season 13-3 and went on to the NFC Championship Game.
After Saturday’s 27-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Atlanta sits at 0-3 in this year’s preseason, and fans are perturbed.
Atlanta quarterbacks were sacked six times by the Titans, Matt Ryan five times and Dominique Davis once. The offensive line, already the biggest question mark on this team, became a huge worry.
Titans quarterbacks Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined for 209 yards and three touchdowns with a gaudy 126.7 quarterback rating. Locker ranked No. 28 last season with 2,176 yards passing, and Fitzpatrick was No. 18 with 3,400. Neither lit the NFL up in 2012.
There was some cautious optimism wrapped in apprehension. But that just leads to indecision.
What corrections do the Falcons need to make before they travel to New Orleans for Week 1 of the regular season?
Fix the Offensive Line
Of the six sacks allowed Saturday, right tackle Lamar Holmes was directly responsible for half. He’s not the only issue on Atlanta’s offensive line, but he might be the biggest area of concern.
Since Mike Johnson went down with a season-ending injury, Holmes is only being pushed by undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder. It’s not likely the Falcons can do anything but start Holmes once the regular season rolls around. The coaching staff is going to have to find a few schematic methods to help Holmes until he’s up to speed.
The two worst showings during the preseason for Atlanta have come against Cincinnati and Tennessee, which ranked third and ninth last season in sacks, respectively. The Falcons play eight games against teams that finished in the top half of the league last year in sacks and five against top-10 teams.
The offensive line needs to get fixed in a hurry.
Get the Rookies Up to Speed
All three of Tennessee’s touchdown passes Saturday came with rookie cornerback Robert Alford in coverage. Alford’s shown signs of brilliance during camp, but on the field against the Titans, his inexperience was taken to task.
Both Alford and fellow rookie corner Desmond Trufant will be counted on this season to play a lot of snaps for the Falcons. The skill for both is apparent, but the duo is still moving at slower-than-NFL-ready speed at inopportune times. The way to fix that is with extra reps, but there might not be enough available between now and the regular season.
Trufant and Alford might have to do some on-the-job training during the regular season.
Starting cornerback Asante Samuel left Saturday’s game with a thigh injury and did not return. If he’s hurt for any extended period of time, this secondary might get picked apart early on.
Score 7s, Not 3s
Twice in the first quarter, the first-team offense put together good drives only to have them stalled. Atlanta walked away twice with a field goal instead of a touchdown.
The Falcons ranked eighth last season by scoring 26.3 points per game. But even then they left points on the field with their inability at times to punch the football into the end zone.
Atlanta’s defense might not be as solid as it was last season. If that’s the case, the offense is going to have to pick up the slack. Scoring touchdowns instead of being forced to kick field goals is one of the best ways to make sure you outscore your opponent.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.