The clock is ticking for several players trying to make a lasting impression on the Falcons’ coaching staff.
Coach Dan Quinn went a little longer in practice Thursday to try to accommodate them.
“We wanted to get an extended look at some guys,” Quinn said.
The Falcons (0-2) are set to face the Arizona Cardinals (1-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the opener for the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Our new spot and the excitement that goes along with that,” Quinn said. “We are having a walk-through (at the stadium). We are just really excited to see our fans and feel their energy.”
The starters are expected to play longer against the Cardinals.
Quarterback Matt Ryan looks forward to facing the stingy Cardinals defense.
“You want to go against good teams and good players to kind of sharpen your skills,” Ryan said. “It will be a good test. ... We’ll get a chance to evaluate and see where we are at and see what we need to improve on as we keep heading on into the season. They certainly do have a lot of talent on that defense.”
The Falcons believe the Cardinals have a potent offense, too.
“Carson (Palmer) is one of the elite quarterbacks, regardless of what anyone says,” defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel said. “He wasn’t the No. 1 pick just because. He still has a very strong arm. He has nice receivers outside and both running backs, enough said.
“So, it’s a great challenge from that standpoint to go against guys and this high-rated offense. They spread the ball around and are tough in the run game. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
The Falcons end the exhibition season when they host Jacksonville on Aug. 31.
Here are five players with something to prove against the Cardinals:
1. Deante Burton, wide receiver. He missed a tackle on the punt return for a touchdown by the Steelers and has dropped two passes.
2. Brian Hill, running back. Hasn’t shown much in two games. He has 24 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Hill finished his runs stronger against the Steelers and played hard. He also must show that he can handle special-teams duties.
“He’s giving really good effort,” special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. “I can’t say enough about his effort. He’s a smart kid. He’s very detailed. He’s trying to do it the right way. Every week, these young guys are getting a little bit better.”
3. Jermaine Grace, linebacker. He missed the game against the Steelers with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice and must make up some ground in a fierce battle for one of the backup spots.
“We’re pleased with the effort that this group is playing with,” Quinn said.
The linebackers must contribute on special teams.
“Honestly, on special teams our linebackers should be a factor,” Quinn said. “Kemal Ishmael has been another one that has stood out. We’re hopeful to get Jermaine Grace back in action this week. It’s a big week for our guys to feel the run and hit factor at linebacker.”
4. Marvin Hall, wide receiver. He dropped a potential touchdown pass on a nice throw from backup quarterback Matt Simms against the Steelers. He has been targeted eight times and caught just two passes. He looks like an NFL player, but this is his third stop.
“Marvin Hall did a good job (at gunner) last week, and Reggie Davis had a nice release last week,” Armstrong said. “There are two young guys who ended up showing up, and it was against the Steelers good group, so that’s always good.”
5. Deji Olatoye, cornerback. Had a pass-interference call against him, and he lined up in the neutral zone in the third quarter to eliminate a team sack. The competition for the fourth corner spot -- to replace Jalen Collins -- is highly competitive.
The coaching staff knows that players are going to make mistakes.
“If there are mistakes, are they corrected or are they repeated,” Quinn said. “If we fix some of the problems and they stay corrected, you know that player is getting the information and can make adjustments. If they miss it and continue to miss it, that’s a red flag, and that’s a concern for us.”
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