Well it had its ups and downs, but if the first Preseason game told us anything it is we need to improve. I saw a lot of the same mistakes as last year, but I saw some things improved as well. Certain players proved themselves, and showed a good reason for them to be on the team. Here's a list of things that I saw in our 20-10 loss to the Falcons. (take with a grain of salt it is the Preseason after all)
Wow when was the last time we've heard that before. I swear its been a long time since I've heard that our whole rookie class actually performed well but its true.
Eric "5th Dimension" Berry: Saw the beginnings of his recognition skills, and he was diagnosing plays in real time which is good. He would notice where the QB was throwing and seemed to always be around the ball. Had a few nice tackles, and was good in run support.
Dexter "Flex" McCluster: Dex Flex really showcased his speed and versatility and besides one bad drop(that would've gone back for 6) had a good game. If JC needs a rest, the opposing D would still get worn out by his speed and he really showed off his separation skills against the DBs. What I really wanted to see was how he could take a big hit, and he took one like a champ and got right back up.
Javier "Habanero Hotstepper" Arenas: Although he only got to run it back twice, he showed me two things. One he's gonna give us good position when he can take it back, and two he doesn't make mistakes. He had a 40 yard return and a 99 yard return called back for holding that wouldn't have effected the play anyway.
Jon Asamoah: Didn't really notice him besides a holding call(I think) near the goal line, overall I think he played ok.
Kendrick Lewis: Looked good in coverage, and could be a sleeper. May just take the starter spot from McGraw sometime this year.
Yes we have other rookies on the team, our coordinators Crennel and Weis. Game planning and the play-calling was not very good, and that can be attributed to them being out off NFL football. Weis has been in college, and Crennel's been out for a year.
For instance our first drive, was Larry Johnson-esque. Thomas Jones pounded the ball up the middle for a couple yards and throw for a 3rd and long. Ultimately it failed and we had to punt. It got old last year, and its already old now. Once JC and Dex Flex got in things were a lot better, and it opened up a lot more opportunities. I think Weis was gauging our weaknesses, probing what we can and can't do, but we can't have that in the first game of the year.
Defense actually played very well, we got pressure and besides TG's last resort plays(where have I heard that before) there were some sacks there. However there was a few mistakes I didn't like for instance Roddy White made a very good play where he tripped up a DB. At first I thought it was Flowers but the announcers said it was Carr. However, rewinding it I saw it was really Leggett.
Why is a nickel back covering their best WR?? I know its preseason but shouldn't our best CB cover their best WR? Also our interior D was terrible I swear they'd run it up the gut every other play and the D was never ready. Speaking of which...
Michael Turner carved up our D, and the plays "up-the-gut" really showcased our first team's weakness. Now granted Atlanta is very good at that, its what they do but they were getting 6+ yards at will. This set up play-action passing and the rest speaks for itself. Turner would have carved us up if he played the full game.
This can however be blamed on the NT and Strong-side ILB. Their main job is to stop the run, NT occupies multiple blockers and the SSILB is that big "run stuffing" LB in the mold of Ray Lewis. When the OL can open up huge lanes its usually on the nose to not allow that and Edwards just can't get the job done. Missed tackles also don't help from the LB spot.
If Smith, Belcher and DJ can't supplant them as the starters I don't know what we'll do. Things got better when they played and its stll a confusion to me that they're first team at all. Teams will just continuously run us up the gut, and play-action pass us all the way down the field. H
A positive I can take from the D is that we held them to only 3 points in the first half. Another is that our outside RunD looked good, never saw any sweeps really work and Berry was good in run support including a big hit on Michael Turner that could've been a score if Mike Brown was still the starter.
This is a definite improvement from last year, and our D was putting up consistent pressure the entire game. It made Matt Ryan uncomfortable and he had to throw the ball away a couple of times. Hali was getting consistent pressure even being double-teamed and it seemed like everyone was putting on pressure.
Lets not forget the big guys up front, you're gonna hear they didn't look good but I disagree. The only reason we had such pressure was because they consistently collapsed the pocket, and took up blockers so that the OLBs could put up consistent pressure. Plus I saw numerous tackles for a loss and all in all a much more improved Defense. If we could only get better on RunD...
Even with the new additions we still had the same problems as last year. We allowed to much pressure, the QBs got sacked twice, and had a couple of mental errors. ROC got straight abused today, and was the main reason for one of those sacks. Albert played alright, it wasn't his best game, but it also wasn't his worst. Overall pass blocking was atrocious, and we're gonna need to keep the pressure off Cassel if we want to succeed in the league.
However Run blocking was pretty good. The first drive was bad but that was more a power running game that we are not built for at all. Once JC and Dex Flex got back there that is when we excelled, and the OL even blew up a play up the middle so Dex Flex could gain like 6 yards. As long as TJ is limited to goal line and "3rd and 2" type of situations we should do pretty good at the Running game.
After JC's "demotion" to the 2nd team I think we were all wondering how he'd do. Would he be just as good as last year or was he just "flash in a pan"? Well if the Atlanta game showed anything its that he's just as good as he's always been. Only now he's a little bigger, a little faster, and has a year's worth of experience that's a recipe for success if I've ever seen one.
A nice surprise was Dex Flex, he lined up at RB after JC went to rest and he showed he's got what it takes. He's just as quick as JC and we won't have to worry about a loss of speed if JC takes a rest. With JC and Dex Flex out running Defenses it'll make things a lot easier as the game goes along.
Meanwhile Kestahn Moore and Williams also put up good games. it'll be a fight for the 3rd RB position and whoever's better will end up with a spot. Competition is always good.
TJ however didn't really do that well. From what I've heard from Jets fans he takes what the OL gives him and that's exactly what he proved Friday. He's going to be our guy to get those tough 1-3 yards, and goal line situations.
Ohh Matt "Noodle-Armed" Cassel when are you going to "break out"? You still show the same mistakes as last year: Pocket presence, Deep Ball accuracy, and holding onto the ball way to long. Things he never learned sitting on the bench his whole life and a big reason we have problems with him to begin with. However he did show potential. How you may ask? He made 6 of his 8 passes, he showed consistency, and he didn't make stupid mistakes(besides a fumble because the pocket collapsed)
Croyle on the other hand showed the same inconsistency that he always. He came up with some good drives that had us singing his praises, but I knew better. I waited and wouldn't you know it he throws an Interception that sets up a Falcons TD.
Cassel should be the starter and will be. Does that mean he's good...no at least not yet. He still needs some tweaking done to his game and until he can correct his mistakes our offense will never get off the ground...literally. He's average at this point, and if he can't prove himself this year and get over the proverbial hump, I see him getting cut and us picking up a new QB in the draft next year.