Rome wasn’t built in a day and apparently neither will the Falcons’ rushing attack.
Even with the top two running backs out of attack, the backups should have been able to carve out more than 31 yards on 19 carries.
The starters were sharp again as the reserves got kicked in the teeth in a 30-22 defeat against New York Jets on Friday at MetLife Stadium.
In two exhibition games, the Falcons’ have starters outscored the opposition 31-0, with quarterback Matt Ryan playing only 20 snaps, and the first-team defense is making impact plays to get off the field.
Let’s move on to the grades from Friday.
Game ball: Collin Mooney, fullback. On the offense’s second play, Mooney lined up behind Ryan in the I-formation. He darted through the line, went 10 yards and shot out to the right flat. He caught a nice pass and darted up the field for a 60-yard gain to jump-start the offense. He’s in a battle with Patrick DiMarco for likely one fullback spot on the roster.
Quarterbacks, B. Matt Ryan was 4-of-5 passing for 75 yards and one touchdown. T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree alternated after Ryan departed. Yates led the offense to a touchdown drive in the third quarter. He played 33 snaps and completed 8 of 15 passes for 78 yards and had a passer rating of 40.4. Renfree, who nearly connected with Bernard Reedy on a nice deep ball late, completed 10 of 14 passes for 94 yards and had a passer rating of 89.6. He played 23 snaps. Overall the group had a passer rating of 83.8.
Running backs, D. About the only highlight was Terron Ward scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. On one play, the handoff to Jerome Smith from Renfree was clean, but the ball squirted out without much contact and was scooped up and returned for a touchdown. The Falcons can’t wait to get Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman back from their hamstring woes. Smith finished with 25 yards on six carries, but the fumble marred his effort.
Wide receivers/tight ends, B-plus. Leonard Hankerson’s touchdown catch came on a really nifty underneath route. He looked good working in the starting lineup with Roddy White out with an elbow injury. Julio Jones drew a pass-interference call on Darrelle Revis in the end zone. Justin Hardy led the receivers with 53 yards receiving on four catches. Nick Williams, who’s going to be hard to cut, also had four catches. Tight end Jacob Tamme hasn’t caught a pass in two games. Levine Toilolo caught a two-point conversion pass.
Offensive line, C. Chris Chester said the line is the issue and not the backs. He believes the reserve backs are fine, but the line is still working out its issues with combination blocks. Ryan Schraeder believes the backs taking better angles would help the run game. He said that things were humming along when Freeman and Coleman were healthy. With no rushing attack to balance the offense, the reserves gave up three sacks for 19 yards in losses. Jon Asamoah, who the Falcons may have been showcasing for the 12 NFL teams scouting the game for a possible trade, played 43 snaps, more than anyone on the offense. Mike Person played 37 snaps and rookie seventh-round pick Jake Rodgers played 31.
Defensive line, B. Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn and Jonathan Babineaux all had strong showings before exiting. Babineaux dropped Jets running back Chris Ivory for a 4-yard loss, and Clayborn had a sack. Beasley came free off a nice spin-move inside. Beasley played 19 snaps. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he can feel the pressure from the defense.
Linebackers, C. Strongside linebacker Brooks Reed, middle linebacker Paul Worrilow and weakside linebacker Justin Durant started. Reed made his debut with the Falcons and played nine snaps. He was not pleased with his solid performance. Worrilow and Reed had nice deflections in pass coverage. The reserves gave up too much ground in the run game, including Ivory’s 33-yard touchdown run.
Defensive backs, C-minus. Robert Alford started at right cornerback and moved inside in the nickel package. Phillip Adams started at left cornerback for Desmond Trufant (shoulder strain). Rookie Jalen Collins played outside in the nickel. Alford had a holding call, which was a problem for him last season. Dezmen Southward was beaten for a touchdown, and the reserves generally had a tough time with Jets backup quarterback Bryce Petty, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 168 yards and had a passer rating of 109.1. Cornerback Akeem King, a seventh-round pick and converted safety, was beaten along the sideline by Jets wide receiver Saalim Hakim for a 46-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Special teams, A-plus. Punter Matt Bosher boomed seven punts for 391 yards for a whopping 55.9 per punt average and a 46.1 net. His long was a 61-yarder. Devin Hester broke loose for a 59-yard return to set up the second touchdown drive.
Coaches, B-plus. The Falcons’ first-teamers came out ready to play for the second consecutive game. The inability to mount just a semblance of a rushing attack, even with the backup running backs, has to been a major concern going into the third exhibition game. If the Falcons can’t get the running game going, the offense will become one-dimensional, and the opponents won’t have to honor the play-action fakes. The defensive front seven is coming together. Keith Armstrong’s special-teams units continued to shine.
Next up: Falcons (1-1) play at Miami (0-1) at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Falcons’ offensive line will get a stiff test from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
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