Renfree, Yates in battle for top backup QB spot

Heading into the Falcons’ second exhibition game, the competition for the backup quarterback spot is heating up.

Sean Renfree, who was the third-stringer last season, had a strong performance in the exhibition opener against Tennessee in his bid to unseat No. 2 T.J. Yates.

Coach Dan Quinn expects that completion to churn until the final exhibition game.

“It’s 100 percent still a competition,” Quinn said. “The guys will go through it over the next three weeks and it will still be a battle.”

It is a friendly and professional battle.

“I like the support that they give one another,” Quinn said. “They are fully supporting one another.”

The Falcons’ front-office thinks highly of Renfree. Despite being injured in his final game of his career at Duke, the Falcons picked him in the seventh-round of the 2013 draft.

When he re-injured his torn right pectoral muscle, the team stashed him on injured reserve for the 2013 season. Last season, the Falcons were one of 16 teams to open the year with three quarterbacks on the roster.

“The guys here have been great to me,” Renfree said. “I was able to come back quick. Everybody goes through injuries every year. Anybody that is playing a lot of ball, it’s something that you’ll go through. They’ve been great to me.”

Renfree, 25, is 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. He was a three-time All-ACC and academic all-American selection for the Blue Devils.

Renfree had better numbers than Yates over the 2014 exhibition season. Yates completed 28 of 53 passes (52.8 percent) for 438 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with a passer rating of 77.4. Renfree completed 27 of 44 passes (61.5 percent) for 278 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions with a passer rating of 87.1.

Former Falcons coach Mike Smith put a lot of stock in the fact that Yates had five NFL starts under his belt and that he led Houston to a playoff victory over Cincinnati as a rookie.

Yates played in one game last season and completed three of four passes. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown.

Against the Titans on Friday night, Renfree, who didn’t play a down in the 2014 regular-season, took over late in the third quarter with the score tied 24-24.

“It was good to get back out there,” Renfree said. “It’s been awhile since I was in an (exhibition) season game. The guys did well in the group that I was in.”

Renfree promptly guided the Falcons on a 16-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, which wound up winning the game 31-14.

“We ran the ball well, which helps,” Renfree said. “It makes throwing a lot easier. The guys did a really good job up front as well as the running backs.”

Renfree also helped run out the clock after the defense made a stop and got the offense the ball back with 3:45 to play.

“What an awesome end for Sean,” Quinn said.

“We did a lot of keepers, which is what we call it,” Renfree said. “Just some play action off it. Having the running game made it easier.”

Renfree liked that he wasn’t just mopping up in a blowout and that the game was in doubt when he came in.

“I got to go out there and decide what happens,” Renfree said. “You get to hold the team in your hands in terms of going out and scoring.”

He has a distinct approach to this competition with Yates, who’s from Marietta and played at Pope High before starring at North Carolina.

“You just show up every single day to go to work,” Renfree said. “That’s all that you can ask for. That’s what I’ll do from here on out. Just go to work at practice and in the (exhibition) season games.”