The Falcons turned in another lackluster performance, but don’t seem to be overly concerned.
The first-team units flashed enough in a 19-7 loss to the Redskins on Thursday night to please coach Dan Quinn.
“Defensively, I thought we made some progress on third down,” Quinn said. “That was one of the things we were digging on, too, hard. On special teams, we had some miscues certainly in the return game that we have to clean up. It was nice to see some good covering and some tackles inside the 20. But we’ve got to put the whole thing together.”
Quinn was probing for morsels of good football.
“I was excited to see the defense get a good stop toward the end of the first half,” Quinn said. “They had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and came out with a field goal. I thought that was a big moment of the game.”
He loved Deadrin Senat’s forced fumble that was recovered by Takk McKinley and returned 17 yards to set up the Falcons’ only touchdown.
“I also saw lots of different guys in different spaces make plays,” Quinn said. “Lots to watch (on film). We look forward to do that before we wrap up the final part of the (exhibition) season.”
Here are five things we learned from the Falcons’ 12th consecutive exhibition season loss:
1. Matt Ryan is ready to go: The Falcons’ quarterback guided the offense for five series in the first half before donning his baseball cap.
He came out smoking, connecting on his first eight passes, before going 1 of 6. Overall, he completed 9 of 14 passes for 74 yards and finished with a 77.7 passer rating.
Ryan led them to a missed field goal, punt, touchdown, punt and punt while playing behind an offensive line that’s still finding its way.
“I feel like I’m in a good place heading into this season,” Ryan said. “My body feels great. I really feel like I got good work these past two weeks.”
2. The offensive line is not ready: James Carpenter was clearly shaking off some rust. He’s played in over 100 NFL games and has made 97 starts. Perhaps he can turn on the switch when the season starts.
Carpenter was coming back from a hip flexor and didn’t look very good climbing to the second level to block Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. On the second-and-1 play, Bostic ran around Carpenter and dropped Brian Hill for no gain.
Jamon Brown, who is also competing for the left guard spot, got mauled on a few plays.
Right tackle Matt Gono got off to a good start, as the Falcons eased into the game with some quick passes. But eventually he started to struggle in pass protection against Washington linebacker Montez Sweat, who had two tackles and a quarterback hit.
“From the protection, that was the spot that I thought we really wanted to address,” Quinn said. “I thought there were just too many hits (on) Matt (against the Jets). For tonight, no sacks, but I don’t know the number of hits.”
Gono, who started because of injuries to Kaleb McGary (heart) and Ty Sambrailo (shoulder) was pleased with his play.
“I just tried to come into this week treating it like practice,” Gono said. “That was the approach I tried to take. I was not overthinking it. Just studying film and tried to treat it like any other week.”
Quinn didn’t seem to account for all of the quick passes Ryan threw early on. But on third-and-11 on the first play of the second quarter, the protection didn’t hold up and Ryan had to throw the ball away while being chased by two Redskins.
“It was good to see Carp get his first action,” Quinn said. “It was good to see Gono get his first action with the first group. We are still not where we are going to be, but I was pleased with the performance tonight.”
3. Barner to win return job by default: Veteran returner Kenyon Barner is going to win the punt returner job by default.
Rookies Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus seemed to be mystified by the ball and both muffed punts. Green made the mistake of trying to catch a punt with his hands in a poor position. Zaccheaus tried to get to a ball that he seemed to misjudge. He touched it and Washington recovered.
“You learn from some of the failures for those guys for sure,” Quinn said. “When they get put into that space again they are able to learn from it and grow from it.
Green, a sixth-round pick from Louisiana-Monroe, could perhaps benefit from being on the practice squad, where he could get some more work on catching punts.
“Barner is the one who would lead the way for us from the return side,” Quinn said. “We held him tonight. He’s been getting the bulk of it.”
Green and Zaccheaus will get another shot in the exhibition-season finale.
“It doesn’t always go like you want, especially for a rookie,” Quinn said. “You have to kind of live through those moments and keep pushing forward and see how they respond. They’ll certainly get some more chances next week.”
4. Will they call Matt Bryant? Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 39-yard field goal on the Falcons’ opening drive of the game. He missed two 52-yard field goals last week against Jets and missed a 54-yard field goal against the Broncos on Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio.
Quinn’s patience is wearing thin. He didn’t express any faith or belief in Tavecchio after this latest miss.
“Like everything, we are going to evaluate that spot like others as well,” Quinn said. “For us, that’s what the (exhibition) season is for, a chance to look at guys and see what they can do and develop players. That’s part of the fun of the (exhibition) season and what they can be, but as far as that goes, same standards for everybody in evaluating our performance of where we are at.”
Tavecchio won the confidence of the coaches by making some long kicks last season. But the latest miss has them thinking about a move.
“No. 1, there were one or two that were long, for sure,” Quinn said. “But anytime, at any position when we’ve missed the mark, we want to find out why and what we can do to get better? It’s definitely a spot where we are continuing to evaluate.”
Former Falcons kicker Bryant, who turned 44 in May, has remained unsigned since he was released by the team in February.
5. Injury report: Cornerback Taveze Calhoun (concussion), defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman (neck), fullback Ricky Ortiz (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Zimmer (foot) and tight end Jaeden Graham ( knee) were injured in the game and did not return.
Several other players were held out of the game: defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (strained calf), wide receiver Russell Gage (hip), linebacker Richie Brown (undisclosed), tight end Alex Gray (undisclosed), cornerback Damontae Kazee (rib), linebacker Foye Oluokun (groin), cornerback Kendall Sheffield (hamstring), quarterback Matt Simms (undisclosed), wide receiver Julio Jones (foot), linebacker Deion Jones (foot), McGary (heart) and Sambrailo (shoulder).
The defense is looking forward to getting Deion Jones back.
“We’ve got the right people in place,” defensive end Vic Beasley said. “We’re going to get (Jones) back. It’s going to be exciting. We’ve got a lot to prove.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.