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Atlanta Falcons Vs Tennessee Titans: Preseason Recap (Another Good Write Up)


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There were plenty of storylines to follow last night; particularly the adjustment to the offensive and defensive schemes, the play of the offensive line, and the first live action for rookies and notable second year players.

1. Vic Beasley

Many people, including myself, hyped up Clemson edge rusher Vic Beasley as the top player in the 2015 draft class. He was expected to turn in a nice debut, but with limited snaps it was important to see that he flashed the same explosive ability that he did at Clemson and in pre-draft workouts.

While he didnt make any eye-popping plays, he showed off his ability to get up field in a hurry and rushed against Tennessees left and right tackles. He showed off nice range and athleticism tracking down a stretch play running to the opposite side of the formation he was on. Beasleys most impactful play was allowed newly signed linebacker Justin Durant to intercept Marcus Mariota on a screen pass.

Beasley didnt react to the screen pass as quickly as the other defensive linemen, but he obstructed Mariotas view just long enough to force Mariota to lob it right into the hands of Justin Durant who almost took it back for a touchdown. It was a rather quiet performance from Beasley, but with roughly ten total snaps played he showed off some nice ability. Well be able to learn more about Beasleys talents and season projection as he accrues more snaps in their game versus the Jets next week.

2. New Defensive Mentality and Hagemans Progression

One of the biggest issues with the Falcons defense the past few seasons (besides the glaring lack of talent) was the aggression and mentality of the unit. After seeing a few series of players who will be rotating in on the first team unit, its abundantly clear that Dan Quinn has instilled a new mindset with the defensive players. The aggression from the snap of the ball to the whistle was night and day from Mike Smiths unit last season. One player who really seems to be buying into Dan Quinns fast and physical philosophy is defensive tackle Rashede Hageman.

Hageman was one of the most physically talented players in the 2014 NFL Draft, but had a fairly uninspiring rookie campaign. He looked like a completely new player in his snaps versus the Titans. While his pad level still is still a work in progress, he was playing with an urgency and fervor that he didnt display last season. He was explosive, powerful, and rude as **** at the point of attack. If Hageman can unlock his inner bully **** be a vital piece for this Atlanta defensive line not only this season but moving forward into the future.

One sign of technical improvement that Hageman showed was with his block shedding ability. His initial strike with his hands still needs work but with his size, strength, and athleticism he can still be an overwhelming force at the point of attack. In the play above versus Chance Warmack, Hageman comes out of his stance high, but executes a swim move that allows him to shed Warmack and make a play in the backfield. The sky is the limit on Hagemans potential and if this game and reports coming out of camp remain are any signal, then he should take steps into becoming the player everyone thought he could be when he was drafted.

3. Adjustments to the Defensive Scheme

The new cover three scheme that Quinn is bringing over calls for less coverage responsibilities with the linebackers allowing them to aggressively flow to the ball. Paul Worrilow was a huge beneficiary of the lax coverage tasks. While he racked up a large tackle total last season, he struggled with his reads and found himself out of position on a startling number of plays. Last night versus the Titans, Worrilow appeared much more confident and poised. While he still isnt the reading plays as quickly as some of the top-tier linebackers in the NFL, he flashed some nice ability last night. He was aggressively attacking plays downhill and filling in his cutback lanes and run fits nicely.

Desmond Trufant sat out the game last night leaving Phillip Adams starting in his place as the left cornerback on the first team defense across from Robert Alford. Overall, I came away impressed with how the back seven adjusted to their coverage responsibilities. It wasnt perfect; there were times when the second and third team safeties were late rotating to their curl/flat assignments, but the first team looked impressive. Worrilow gave up a first down catch in the first quarter, but he looked comfortable as both the middle hook defender and as the curl flat defender. Quinn ran a pretty vanilla scheme for the first preseason game; Ill be looking forward to breaking down their development as they incorporate blitz packages and coverage wrinkles into the upcoming preseason games.

4. More of the Same on Offense

Lets start off with the positives on offense. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan appear poised for monstrous campaigns. Kyle Shanahan appears dead set on feeding Jones the ball early and often. If Julio can stay healthy he should be in for a career year. Matt Ryan looked sharp last night. He was finding holes in the Titans zone coverage and was poised on the one play he had pressure in his face, finding Patrick DiMarco for a first down. The first team offensive line held up well in pass protection and last years first round pick Jake Matthews finally looks healthy. Barring injury he should turn in a solid season as the blindside protector for the Falcons.

The most startling concern on offense last night was the run blocking performance of the first team offensive line. They gained little push against Tennessees defensive line and looked outmatched at the point of attack. It didnt help matters that training camp star Terron Ward lacked the acceleration and burst to bend back inside or bounce outside. He doesnt seem fast enough to play in this scheme, but with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman coming back from injury (hopefully soon) he wont be asked to be the guy for the regular season. Im waiting to see how Freeman and Coleman perform in the zone blocking scheme before officially being concerned with it for the season.

(By the way, Jon Asamoah who was in with the second team is very clearly our best offensive lineman. Get him back in the starting lineup.)

5. Rookie Watch

The Falcons rookies produced a mixed bag of results last night. Second round rookie Jalen Collins showed that he still has to make some considerable progress before he can be counted on to be a reliable producer in this defense. This was expected, but it was still a bit disappointing to see Collins struggle before deflecting a pass that teammate Robenson Therezie pulled in a for an interception. Collins is a project for this coaching staff, but theres no denying his physical upside. If Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris can get him to play more disciplined as he bails to the deep third (particularly against comeback routes) then he may be a player they can insert into the line up during the regular season.

Justin Hardy had a fairly positive performance. He had some nice routes and got open versus the Titans second team defense. However, he was responsible for a TJ Yates interception after he dropped the ball and it bounced to a Titans defender. The pass was by no means a dime, but it was a catch that Hardy should be counted on to make in the future. That interception was really the only blemish on what was a solid night for him.

Fifth round pick Grady Jarrett was the best value the Falcons got in the entire draft, and looked good last night going against the Titans second team offensive line. He got solid push versus the run while collapsing the pocket a few times from 3-technique and 1-technique. Jarrett should be a solid rotational piece going forward.

Seventh round picks Jake Rodgers and Akeem King varied in their play. Rodgers struggled in pass protection while getting bullied versus the run at times. The speed of NFL games moves a lot faster than Division-1AA Eastern Washington and hes going to need time to adjust to the new level of competition. Akeem King was a solid presence in the secondary; he performed well at cornerback while he was in the game.

Undrafted rookie Kevin White played about half of the defensive snaps and turned in a solid performance. He wasnt notably bad which is all you can ask for out of an undrafted player. He also made the last play of the game tackling David Cobb as time expired.

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