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Rookie Vic Beasley, Devin Hester Help Jump-Start Falcons Against Jets


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The Atlanta Falcons' second preseason game, on the road against the New York Jets, featured some big plays on both sides of the ball in a 30-22 loss.

The first-team offense, led by quarterback Matt Ryan, marched 85 yards on six plays on the first possession, capped by rookie Terron Ward's 4-yard touchdown run. Then after Devin Hester's show-stopping, 59-yard punt return, Ryan capitalized with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson.

"The first drive was jump-started by the explosive play by Collin Mooney," Ryan said, referring to a 60-yard catch-and-run by his fullback. "When you get going and you want to start fast, those plays help a lot. Then we did a great job of finding a way to punch it in, in the red zone. On the second drive, the credit goes to Devin [Hester] and the punt return team for setting us up down there. We got the ball on the 3 or 4-yard line, whatever it was, three plays and we were able to punch it in."

Then on defense, the Falcons forced five consecutive punts by the Jets, spearheaded by the pass-rush efforts of rookie Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn. It's only preseason, but there's reason to be optimistic about the flashes the Falcons have shown thus far.

QB depth chart: The battle for the backup spot behind Ryan continues to be up in the air. T.J. Yates came in after Ryan, but Yates proceeded to rotate series with Sean Renfree. Yates had a poor throw that led to an interception, and he was sacked for a safety as a result of poor blocking. He then responded with a long drive later. Renfree didn't do anything spectacular. Yates finished 8-of-15 for 78 yards; Renfree 10-of-14 for 94 yards. So, the battle will continue on, unless the Falcons decide to sign a veteran.

Maybe that dude can start: The fullback Mooney made a strong case to get the nod over incumbent Patrick DiMarco. Off play-action by Ryan, Mooney rolled out of the backfield and broke loose on that 60-yard play. It helped set up a 4-yard touchdown run for Ward, an undrafted rookie, and Mooney even helped clear the path for Ward with a decent block. Not to mention Mooney ran down and made a crushing tackle on special teams, which certainly opened the eyes of the coaches.

Who got hurt? Well, the Falcons didn't lose any of their first-teamers during the game, but it was a little surprising to see veteran wide receiver Roddy White miss the game with what the team called an elbow injury. White practiced during the week and didn't seem to have any issues, although his reps were limited. The initial word was the injury wasn't anything serious. White, who entered training camp nursing an ailing left knee, likely would prefer to rest now and preserve himself for the regular season. Undrafted rookie linebacker Derek Akunne exited the game with a foot injury in the second half and running back Evan Royster got shaken up late in the game. The Falcons played without running backs Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, and Antone Smith, who continue to recover from hamstring strains. Also out were cornerback Desmond Trufant (shoulder), strong safety William Moore (calf), defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (concussion), and offensive lineman Peter Konz (knee).

A surprise player who looks amazing: Maybe it's not a surprise anymore, but Hankerson continues to make you wonder why he wasn't more of a threat while a member of the Washington Redskins. Hankerson ran a nice crossing route on a 2-yard touchdown reception. Hankerson had three catches for 15 yards in limited duty. He makes catches look routine in practice. And Hankerson said the devastating left knee injury he suffered two seasons ago is no longer an issue.

Rookie watch: As mentioned, Beasley looked amazing with his pass-rush skills, including a devastating spin move and a powerful bull rush. He tipped at least one pass as he continued to rush from both sides. Defensive lineman Grady Jarrett saw some time at right defensive end as well as rushing from the interior. Cornerback Jalen Collins continued to have his struggles in coverage and had another learning moment while contending against one of the league's most talented receivers in Brandon Marshall. Receiver Justin Hardy had an up-and-down night.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Falcons looked ... Dominant. Ryan engineering two scoring drives, said enough, and the Falcons have outscored opponents 31-0 in the first quarter through two preseason games. Then, the first-team defense flew all over the field and shut out the Jets with a swarming effort. The defense didn't start to struggle until the backups and third-teamers entered the game and began to miss tackles and blow assignments. Then again, those second- and third-tier players were going against the Jets' starters initially.

One reason to freak out: The offensive line had some shaky moments, as a whole. The starters weren't bad but there were some mistakes here and there. And center Joe Hawley picked up a penalty on a late shove. But if anything happens to starting tackles Jake Matthews or Ryan Schraeder, Tyler Polumbus definitely won't be the answer with the way he struggled Friday. So, the Falcons better consider dishing out a little more money to get Jake Long, if Long's knees are healthy.

Greatest of all time: Hester, who had been bothered by turf toe and missed the first preseason game, showed he still has it at the age of 32 with that 59-yard return. He enters his 10th NFL season as the NFL's all-time record holder with 20 career return scores. He looks destined to add to the total this season.

Communication issues: On the safety the Falcons gave up, guard James Stone and tight end Jacob Tamme had poor communication that led to rookie phenom Leonard Williams taking Yates down for the sack. Such happens when guys are not used to working together.

http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/15155/rookie-vic-beasley-devin-hester-help-jump-start-falcons-against-jets

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On the safety the Falcons gave up, guard James Stone and tight end Jacob Tamme had poor communication that led to rookie phenom Leonard Williams taking Yates down for the sack. Such happens when guys are not used to working together.

Actually, I was hoping to hear something like this. If you watch the play, Stone looks terrible. He completely whiffs. And of course Stone is a starter.

I was hoping someone with more O line knowledge would pick up on some kind of communication error.

Still, this, and Chris Chester's complete whiff on Yates first play, make the O line look pretty bad. As good as we're looking everywhere else, the O line might be bad enough to make it all irrelevant.

Dave Archer said the O line seems to play better for Ryan. If that's just due to motivation, then we're in bad shape. If it is somehow due to something material, like better communication, or Ryan getting rid of the ball faster, etc., then maybe Ryan can mask some of the O line problems.

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Actually, I was hoping to hear something like this. If you watch the play, Stone looks terrible. He completely whiffs. And of course Stone is a starter.

I was hoping someone with more O line knowledge would pick up on some kind of communication error.

Still, this, and Chris Chester's complete whiff on Yates first play, make the O line look pretty bad. As good as we're looking everywhere else, the O line might be bad enough to make it all irrelevant.

Dave Archer said the O line seems to play better for Ryan. If that's just due to motivation, then we're in bad shape. If it is somehow due to something material, like better communication, or Ryan getting rid of the ball faster, etc., then maybe Ryan can mask some of the O line problems.

ryan has masked this oline his entire career
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When it's strictly the starters the o line doesn't look near as bad as when they start rotating guys in. However they do seem to play harder for Ryan and they have not rotated guys in when Ryan is under center preferring to stick with the same 5. As bad as Stone looked on that safety he looked amazing on the touchdown. If I'm TD I'm on the phone with Longs agent right now I thought Konz was our worst lineman but Polumbus makes him look like an all pro and let's quit the Person at center experiment please

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totally agree with the "Ryan has masked this line his whole career" post. I think the sack for safetly was a combination of miscommunication, tamme didn't pick up the block at all, and Yates is too slow to pull the trigger. I really don't think he had time to even try though honestly. I won't put it all on stone at all, but mostly Tamme on that play.

But Williams against stone definitely showed which was a first rounder and which was a UDFA.

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As bad as Stone looked on that safety he looked amazing on the touchdown. If I'm TD I'm on the phone with Longs agent right now I thought Konz was our worst lineman but Polumbus makes him look like an all pro and let's quit the Person at center experiment please

Agree 100%. So I'd sum up our O line as: our starters will probably struggle at first -- maybe even badly -- but by the mid to end year, they should be pretty strong. However, if we lose even 1 starter to injury, we're probably screwed.

I hope they get some help. I'd hate to see O line problems undo all the other positive things going on.

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