I was glad to have the chance to see this one in the Dome. I travel a lot and miss most of the home games. The new vid screens are sweet.
I recorded the broadcast but haven't watched it yet. From my vantage point, I didn't get to see detail of the backup offensive linemen (Adam Speer, Ryan Stanchek, Jose Valdez, Ben Wilkerson, Mike Butterworth) who are in the hunt for the last roster spots and/or practice squad jobs. I know the mop-up unit as a whole didn't look as good as the regular second unit, but that's obviously no surprise.
I'll have to watch the broadcast tomorrow to see how well each one of them did individually.
Quick takes from the Dome: the offensive play calls were way too basic and conservative. The defense did pull some blitzes, but those seemed pretty tame as well. The two that I remember most were both delayed blitzes that were too slow in developing to have any chance of success. Again it felt like the coaching staff kept things simple to evaluate how well the kids did the basics.
I may change my mind on that one after watching the TV broadcast, but that's how it felt - this was all about evaluations, and the coaches didn't put much effort into actually trying to win this one. Some fans booed when the team ran on third and long to end the opening drive. I understand their frustration - everyone in the Dome knew that was the end of the night for the starters, and it felt like the coaches were packing it in just to get them off the field.
Christopher Owens had a bad game. A *really* bad game. I know lots of fans want the Falcons to start him instead of Brent Grimes, but he proved he isn't ready. He's a fine prospect, but you really don't want rookies or even second year players to start in the secondary if you can avoid it. (Yes, the Falcons are doing it. But that's exactly why we've all complained about the secondary for the last two years...)
Chris Houston had another off game. I'll bet we'll soon start hearing speculation that Tye Hill will replace him instead of Grimes. Don't blame Houston for that first TD pass though. Mike Peterson had the coverage on that one and got torched.
I've posted a few times that Keith Zinger struck me in practice as the most improved Falcons player since last season and that I wouldn't be surprised if he landed the #3 job. I say he nailed it tonight. Tony Gonzalez starts, Justin Peelle is the #2, and Zinger is the #3. Considering Zinger was the fifth string TE even for the Rams game, that's a nice accomplishment.
Robert Ferguson may have lost his roster spot. Eric Weems stepped up and had another solid game. Ferguson didn't.
If the Falcons only keep five WRs, Weems made a pretty strong case that he should be the #5. Also, Weems and Chandler Williams have been the main candidates (virtually the only candidates) for the punt return job. So the Falcons will either have to (a) keep six WRs, (b) keep Weems or Williams instead of Ferguson, or (c) find another punt returner that hasn't had many reps in preseason. After this game, Ferguson can only hope for (a) - and then hope he's the #6 instead of Troy Bergeron or Williams.
Vance Walker has played well enough to win a practice squad spot, but it's tough to say he's going to make the roster. Thomas Johnson has had the inside track as the fourth DT and has been pretty solid, but Walker also had good game and is getting better every day. He clearly beat out Tywain Myles and Jason Jefferson, and he's making it extremely tough to cut him.
The twist is that whoever wins the fourth DT job will be on the inactive list every week unless someone else gets too banged up to play. If the coaches figure that Walker will have a few more weeks of practice before he sees action, they might choose to keep him rather than risk losing him to another team by putting him on waivers and sending him to the practice squad.
Kroy Biermann bulked up in the offseason and it showed. He may have been playing against the second unit, but he had a monster game. (If a second string DE plays lights out against the second unit OL, that still counts as a good performance.) I say the Falcons will use one of the extra roster spots to keep all five defensive ends.
Maurice Lucas had a sack tonight, but I don't know if he's earned a practice squad job. I'm guessing the sack won't make a significant difference - if he hadn't won it already, he still hasn't won't it after this game.
I saw Jamie Winborn make two solid plays and botch one pretty badly. Offhand, I really don't remember too much from Spencer Adkins or Robert James. They each had a few tackles but nothing that stood out (either good or bad) in my mind.
Coy Wire and Tony Gilbert are set as the #4 and #5 LBs. Winborn probably has the edge for the #6 spot. Adkins and James are both eligible for the practice squad if they don't make it as a seventh linebacker or beat out Winborn for the sixth spot.
I'll have to watch the broadcast in detail, but NONE of the backup safeties really jumped out at me during the game live.
Finally, on the QBs - John Parker Wilson started out rough and looked a little gun-shy. But he got it together and had a couple of really solid drives. He showed he has some solid potential - it was pretty obvious why Mike Mularkey says he really likes the kid.
I still feel JPW and DJ are both good candidates for the #3 job but that neither of them is ready for real game action. Bulldog and Crimson Tide fans will feel differently about it, but frankly it doesn't matter which one wins the #3 spot. If either one of them sees the field this year, it's a disaster.
So it's Redman as the #2 unless the team picks up someone from outside the organization. And as I mentioned in a thread on the Falcons message board, Smitty was asked point blank after practice yesterday if Redman would be the backup QB again this year. Smitty dodged the question.
I thought that was rather interesting. Considering Redman was highly respected as the backup last season and that Smitty said he had a great game against the Chargers, it's hard to understand Smitty not being willing to say Redman is his #2. I say the team might be considering an upgrade after the Saturday roster cuts. This year's #2 QB might be someone not currently in the Falcons organization...