Falcons guard Andy Levitre takes the field to play the Redskins during their football game on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Atlanta. (Photo: Curtis Compton, AJC)

Photo: Photo: Curtis Compton, AJC
Photo: Photo: Curtis Compton, AJC

Five things to watch when the Falcons play the Chiefs on Friday night

First-team defense to get stout test from Chiefs’ offense  

The Falcons (0-1) are set to play the Chiefs (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the home exhibition opener. 

“If (Jones and Freeman) do (play), make sure you’re at your seats early,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn advised the fans. “I’ll make a determination as we get closer to (kickoff). Both of them are having a fantastic camp. They’ll be available. It’s likely, but I’ll see on the day of the game.”

Jones and Freeman, who are not injured and were coaching-decision scratches against the New York Jets in the exhibition opener Aug. 10. 

Here are five things to look for against the Chiefs:

1. Defense to get a stiff test. The Falcons’ first-team defense, which had a three-and-out against the Jets in the opener, will get a much stiffer test from the Chiefs.

While Kansas City coach Andy Reid is breaking-in second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have spectacular offensive weaponry in running back Kareem Hunt (1,327 yards led the NFL last season), wide receiver/running back Tyreek Hill (1,183 yards receiving) and tight end Travis Kelce, who had 83 catches in 2017 which was tops for the position.

The Chiefs also added wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency over the offseason.

The Falcons’ run defense is being scrutinized after the team elected not to re-sign defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency. 

“This should be speed on speed in a lot of instances,” Quinn said. “They’ve got some guys that can really fly and we do too. So it should be a fast track, so to speak, at the game. It will be a good matchup.”

2. Harlow watch. This exhibition season is important for offensive guard Sean Harlow, who was a fourth-round pick in 2017. A tackle at Oregon State, Harlow is being converted to guard. 

He played 49 offensive snaps (72 percent) against the Jets. Only rookie tackle Matt Gono (51 snaps) played more in the opener. 

“We really want to make sure that he’s got as much experience as he can get,” Quinn said. “Not only in the first game, but in the practices and OTAs.”

Harlow was inactive for all 18 games last season. 

“Having Andy (Levitre) out was almost like a blessing for him,” Quinn said. “More turns. More reps. So, now that Andy is back, they are a little bit less than they were through the spring, but he’s definitely made improvement.”

As Levitre, 32, is set to enter the last year of his contract, the Falcons need to find out if Harlow can play guard in the NFL for the future. 

“The work that he put in over the offseason with some of the other offensive linemen has been pretty significant,” Quinn said.

Harlow was part of the group of players who stayed at Wes Schweitzer’s house over the offseason to work out and train together. 

First-round pick Calvin Ridley expect to get some return action agains the Chiefs. 

3. First-team offense on the hot seat. The first-team offense misfired in the opener against the Jets. Most of the group will play at least two offensive series. 

“The first thing is can we play some penalty-free ball,” Quinn said.

The running game needs to get rolling, too. 

“We’ve worked really hard in the run game and the play-action that goes with it,” Quinn said. “That will always be a part of what we do. We’ve got plenty of work from the offseason with the dropback pass game. You can do a lot of that in the OTAs, but now that the pads are here, the run game, the play-action that goes with that, that’s a real important.”

The Falcons had an illegal shift by fullback Ricky Ortiz, and wide receiver Justin Hardy was called for an illegal block above waist on their first drive against the Jets. The drive started on the 18 and ended on the 12 for minus-6 yards.

“Too many mistakes,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Too many procedural penalties to put us behind the chains. …There is a lot for us to clean up, but that’s what this time of the year is about. It’s about seeing where you are at. Finding where you at and improving as we move forward.” 

4. Helmet-rule review. The Falcons we’ll continue to attempt to learn how the lowering the helmet rule will be enforced. The Falcons were called for two lowering of the helmet penalties against the Jets. 

The Falcons reviewed all of the calls  from around the league from the first full week of exhibition games.

“I played the clip and asked, ‘What do you think?’” Quinn said. “That can sometimes have more debate and discussion. Like most things, they weren’t all clean. There were definitely ones that were judgment calls which will hard on the officials. But also there were ones were ‘that one, we can get rid of.’ ”

Quinn plans to continue the league-wide review of the helmet calls after the second week of games. 

5. Falcons likely to hold out Bryant. Kicker Matt Bryant, who suffered an undisclosed injury, kicked about 15 footballs during the closed portion of the team’s practice Wednesday.

Quinn said that he will make a game-day decision on whether Bryant will play. Quinn said he would talk to the 43-year old veteran before the decision.

“We’re going to go back and visit with him now,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t a full (workout). ... I don’t know the distances. It was good to see him back and see that he was back in action, so to speak.”

Bryant did not play in the exhibition opener against the Jets. His replacement, David Marvin, missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds. 

“He keeps pretty strict guidelines about how he does and how he kicks,” Quinn said. “I’ll lean on him. He trusts his preparation and I do, too.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 24: Running back Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs stiff arms outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons #94 of the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Photo: Peter Aiken/Getty Images

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