Goober Pyle

Five things we learned from the Falcons’ preseason loss to the Jaguars

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Before he took the field Saturday, Damontae Kazee prayed for neither team to suffer an injury. That is something he does prior to each game. While football is a physical and violent sport, with injuries an inevitable part to it, no one wants to see someone go down with something severe. 

Kazee, however, delivered a blow to Jacksonville receiver Marqise Lee’s knee, which bent awkwardly, on a routine play. Lee eventually was carted off of the field with what could wind up being a devastating injury. 

“I haven’t looked at it yet,” Kazee said, following Jacksonville’s 17-6 preseason win over Atlanta. “My condolences go out to him. I’m just trying to make a football play and not get anybody injured. I pray for both teams before the game for no injuries. That man probably has a family, and I apologize to him with what happened. I’m going to pray for him (Saturday).”

Kazee appeared devastated about the play. He continued playing and finished the game tied with a team-high five tackles. Kazee also forced a fumble and nearly came up with what would have been his second interception of the preseason. 

Yet after Lee’s injury, Kazee said he couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. 

“After that play earlier, I just had a long game,” Kazee said. “That was all I was thinking about. I was thinking about him. Hopefully he’s all right. Hopefully X-rays look good. Hopefully he can come back and play.”

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone couldn’t reveal the extent of the injury since a doctor hasn’t been able to make an official diagnosis. But even Marrone, who said it looked bad,” appeared fearful of the worst. 

I’m waiting for the doctor to tell me so I can tell you guys, but I know what I see,” Marrone said. I’m not going to sit there and say it didn’t look bad. It looked bad.”

But should this play have been a penalty?

On the play in question, Lee caught a reception and turned it up the field for a 20-yard gain. Kazee pursued the play, attempted a low tackle and caught what appeared to be his shoulder on Lee’s knee. Replays showed that Kazee’s body was almost perpendicular to Lee’s body at first contact. 

Even so, he was flagged for leading with the helmet. 

And this adds to the conundrum of the new rule that has been tough for both the officials and the players. 

“It’s a football play,” safety Keanu Neal said. “But at the end of the day it was called. You have to think about the ref in that position. It’s a bang-bang play. It’s happening really fast. They’re hit with a rule that they’re still trying to adjust to. It’s a learning process for everyone. We’ll just continue to grow, continue

 

It remains to be seen if Kazee will face a fine for the penalty. It is worth noting that Minnesota linebacker Antwione Williams was fined just north of $20,000 after he was flagged for supposedly using his body weight to push Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler into the ground on a sack. Most football writers and pundits have disagreed with the decision to penalize the play, let alone the fine. 

The NFL stated previously that its officials will lean toward throwing the flag during the preseason. The hope for coaches and players surely will be for officials to not be so quick to throw the flag on some of these close plays. On Kazee’s, for instance, the Jaguars were able to pick up 15 extra yards on top of the 20-yard gain. In a regular-season game, that could be a huge turn of events. 

Afterward, Kazee kept any thoughts he may have had about the way the play was officiated to himself.

“It is what it is, man,” he said. “We have to keep working on it.”

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was asked about the play and couldn’t find any fault with how Kazee approached the play. 

“You can’t be mad at 27 (Kazee),” Ramsey said. “You have to be mad at the NFL; not mad at them, but that is how the rule is. People are scared to tackle normal because I guess they don’t want to do helmet-to-helmet and get flagged. … Game-changing stuff could happen.”

Penalty aside, Kazee continues to impress

Kazee earned the preseason start with Ricardo Allen sitting out due to a minor injury. Yet again, Kazee showed that it is going to be tough to keep him off of the field in the regular season. Even with Neal and Brian Poole in the starting lineup, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn likely will do what he can to figure out a way to get Kazee on the field.

“He has certainly had an excellent offseason, and then it kind of carried right over into training camp,” Quinn said. “He’s had one of the very best mentors in Ricardo Allen to help train and get right, and at some point a player takes over too, to say, ‘I really want to put out to make a difference on this team.’ and he certainly is finding more roles that we’ll find for him on the defensive side, as well as on special teams.”

With the first team, Kazee nearly had an interception after Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw up an ill-advised pass. Kazee also had the aforementioned tackle that shouldn’t have been flagged. This game followed 11 tackles against the New York Jets and a pick against the Kansas City Chiefs. Kazee has been Atlanta’s star for the preseason. 

“So much growth,” Neal said, when asked about Kazee’s progress. “He’s comfortable out there. He’s playing fast, playing relentless, playing with energy and having a good time. I’m proud of him. He’s definitely made a huge jump.”

Neal was then posed the question Quinn will be faced with once the season opener against Philadelphia rolls around: How will Kazee be involved with the players on the depth chart in front of him?

“We’ll find a way because he’s a ballplayer,” Neal said.

Celestin tallies the tackles again

By this point of the preseason, NFL coaching staffs generally have a feel for who will be on the 53-man roster with cutdowns soon to be made. Even so, there might be some players who still have chances at making the roster, or at least the practice squad, with a strong performance in the final preseason game. 

Undrafted rookie linebacker Jonathan Celestin fits that bill, and his story is a bit surprising. On top of not being selected in April, Celestin couldn’t find a football team until August, which is when the Falcons brought him in. He didn’t appear in a game until late against the Jets and came away with a sack. 

Celestin followed that first game with six tackles against Kansas City, which tied a team high. And at Jacksonville, Celestin entered the game in the second half and tallied five tackles, which tied Kazee and safety Ryan Neal for the team lead. 

But a big development for Celestin’s case was being with the starting kick return team. If Celestin is to earn a spot on the 53-man roster or practice squad, special teams will be important. 

“Most rookies have to be able to play special teams to contribute to the team,” Celestin said. “You’re not going to be the No. 1 starter. It means a lot. I have to get better at that as much as I can so I can make it. I’m trying and showing as much effort as much as I can with each day.”

As a senior at Minnesota in 2017, Celestin totaled 78 tackles, which followed an 80-tackle campaign in 2016. Celestin, who attended Mundy’s Mill High School in Georgia, isn’t sure why he went unnoticed for so long.

“I’m thankful for the Falcons organization, first to be able to play at home as my first team,” he said. “That was a blessing. If it doesn’t work out here, I was able to produce as much as I could for the Falcons and put film out, so hopefully somebody else could pick me up.”

Drive-killing drops

Atlanta’s first-team offense did not look sharp in stretches during the five possessions it took the field in the first half. The main culprit that stalled opportunities had to do with some crucial drops that happened at key moments. 

There were three first-half drops, two of which came on a drive that ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown. Receiver Calvin Ridley beat Ramsey on a slant inside, only to see the ball go through his hands. Later on that possession, Mohamed Sanu dropped what should have been a touchdown on a perfectly placed ball in the end zone. 

Before that drive, tight end Austin Hooper dropped a ball on a second-down screen pass, which very well could have picked up plenty of yards in the middle of the field. 

In the second half, Ridley added another drop, as did running back Justin Crawford as the Falcons committed five drops. 

The Falcons led the NFL in drops with 30 a year ago. For as much heat as offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has taken, players do need to execute. Atlanta certainly has to hope that the performance in this area Saturday eventually will be seen as an anomaly. 

Coming out unscathed

Considering what happened to the Jaguars on Saturday night, it’s important to note that the Falcons have not suffered any major injuries through three preseason games.

The Falcons took a cautious approach this preseason and elected not to play Julio Jones or Devonta Freeman in any game. With minor injuries affecting Allen, Deion Jones and Desmond Trufant, the Falcons decided to sit them. While the Jaguars kept their starters in the game in the third quarter, Atlanta elected to pull its starters. 

Falcons place-kicker Matt Bryant returned to the field and made field goals from 47 and 33 yards out.

With one more preseason game to go, the Falcons might go ahead and sit most everyone with a major role for the upcoming season and have them look ahead to the regular-season opener at Philadelphia.

 

Ergo Proxy and Tim Mazetti like this

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Yeah. Let the scrubs have the field the full 60 minutes. No sense getting anybody hurt when we're just going through the motions.

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5 minutes ago, KRUNKuno said:

We need to run a 3-2-6

we get no pass rush anyway.  

Only have 2 NFL ready linebackers

kazee and Poole need to be on the field as much as possible.  

I saw some good pressure. I also saw the jags getting away with a lot of holding. 

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1 hour ago, KRUNKuno said:

We need to run a 3-2-6

we get no pass rush anyway.  

Only have 2 NFL ready linebackers

kazee and Poole need to be on the field as much as possible.  

This guy gets it.

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This might have already been said but gosh I never wanna hear Fred Taylor announce another game with his monotonous tones

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1 hour ago, KRUNKuno said:

We never get those calls and quite frankly I’m tired of this excuse.  Everybody gets held in the nfl.  

And on every single play.

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4 hours ago, KRUNKuno said:

We need to run a 3-2-6

we get no pass rush anyway.  

Only have 2 NFL ready linebackers

kazee and Poole need to be on the field as much as possible.  

You do know we had 5 sacks in this game. SMH

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2 minutes ago, Caddieman said:

You do know we had 5 sacks in this game. SMH

Don’t be fooled.  Bortles has all kinds of time.  He’s just Blake Bortles.

And it still doesn’t discredit the fact that we should have all of our best players on the field at once. 

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