The Atlanta Falcons are finally ready to play some football as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs in their first preseason game tonight.
Preseason will allow for the many Falcon rookies to get their feet wet and see what the speed of the NFL is like and let other players fight for roster spots.
And while the preseason gives a poor indication of regular season success, it is a terrific litmus test for rookies, depth players, and special teamers.
Weeks of hitting, tackling, blocking, and covering the same guys over and over just doesn't provide the level of competition that tonight will.
Considering the moves orchestrated in the offseason by the front office, there are many factors and key players to watch tonight as the Falcons and Chiefs square off. Here are just a few things to keep your eye out for.
Matchup 1: Falcons defensive line against Chiefs offensive line.
I'm very interested to see this matchup; with youngsters Corey Peters, Peria Jerry in the middle, and Spencer Adkins on the edge this game will allow them to develop and gain valuable experience.
This Chiefs offensive line was retooled in the offseason, bringing aboard veterans such as G Ryan Lilja and C Casey Wiegmann.The Chiefs also still have veteran guard Brian Waters as well as last year's promising prospect Branden Albert.
Peria Jerry—How much will he play? How will he look against Lilja, Wiegmann and Brian Waters?
Corey Peters—The rookie will have a good chance to show what he's got against a relatively unknown in the Chiefs offensive line.
Biermann and Anderson vs Alberts and Ndukwe—Reports out of training camp have been quick to tout Jamaal Anderson's work ethic and play. Falcon fans have heard this song and dance before however, and it will be up to Anderson to hopefully give the fanbase a taste of what people have been talking about.
With the coaching staff's preference in getting Anderson inside on certain downs, all eyes will be on Biermann to put forth a strong effort. A good performance by Biermann will help alleviate some worries in regards to the pass rush.
With the recent injury to Michael Jenkins, many fans are left to wonder who will step up in his place. Enter Harry Douglas, a promising youngster who missed all of last year and who now has a golden opportunity to make a lasting impression with the coaching staff and front office.
With talented corner Brandon Flowers assumed to cover Roddy White, Douglas would then either draw Brandon Carr or rookie Javier Arenas. Last year was a bad one for Carr, who was repeatedly beaten and displayed poor tackling techniques.
As the game progresses, we will also see Eric Weems and Kerry Meier. Meier has had a considerable buzz around him all offseason and it will be exciting to see what he brings to the table. Weems had a decent campaign last year, scoring two touchdowns and providing solid special teams play.
No one knows how much Dunta Robinson will play, if at all in the first game. The Chiefs have a young star who had a rocky season last year in Dwayne Bowe. JaMarcus Russell's favorite target at LSU had a stellar rookie season but struggled last year after landing in Todd Haley's doghouse.
Dominique Franks has been impressing in training camp, and it will be fun to see what he can do on the field as well as on special teams.
The Falcons return the core of their secondary last year, minus the now Detriot Lion second-string corner back Chris Houston. Christopher Owens and Brent Grimes will undoubtedly draw the task of shadowing rookie Dexter McCluster, who is listed as a wide receiver for the Chiefs.
McCuster will undoubtedly play in the slot, where Owens or Grimes may draw the assignment. Or perhaps we get to see what Weatherspoon does against the lightning quick McCluster.
Be on the lookout for Brian Williams, who hopefully is fully recovered and has not lost a step after his injury last year.
The Chiefs were abysmal against the run last year, ranking 31st.
The Falcons will field a three-headed monster in Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, and Jerious Norwood this year. For a look at Michael Turner, click here for a season preview.
The Chiefs defensive line is full of promise and youth, but short in production. Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey will have to start fulfilling some of their immense potential as the push up front last year was lacking for this Chiefs team.
It will be good to see the Falcon O-line get some early chemistry going and open some holes for the running backs.
Rookies Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley will get their first taste of NFL life, and I am especially interested in seeing Garrett Reynolds play.
The big question this year in my mind should be, which Jerious Norwood is going to show up this year? Is this the year he's finally utilized as advertised? Or will he continue to fight injuries?
This year is a make or break year for Norwood. Continued injury issues will hurt his chances of staying a Falcon moving forward.