Here are five things that Falcons coach Dan Quinn wants to see in the third exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium:
1. The offense stay flawless. The first-team offense has scored two touchdowns after playing one series each against Miami and Pittsburgh. Will the unit, which is transitioning to new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, continue to be flawless.
“Sarkisian has a background of quarterback and a background of coaching quarterbacks,” Quinn said. “He’s a terrific communicator. That part is very natural. Fortunately, both Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, and Sarkisian worked on the communication and the flow of it all spring.”
Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel will call their games from the sidelines.
2. Some hitting. Quinn wants to see the linebacker group take charge on defense and 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.”
3. Red-zone action. The Falcons worked on their red-zone offense after practice Wednesday and ran 18 plays on seven-on-seven in the red zone Thursday.
“It’s been an extra area of emphasis for us all through the spring, minicamp and here in the training camp,” Quinn said. “That’s one of those where the more reps, the more time and we’ve devoted that time to it.”
They’ve been working on their timing and speed.
4. Crawford’s power. Defensive tackle Jack Crawford has recovered from a groin injury and saw some action against the Steelers.
“I knew the effort was there, and it’s rare that you see a 6-foot-5 guy who has that kind of first-step quickness,” Quinn said. “He’s got a real knack for playing. I think he’ll be the biggest factor for us in our nickel defense which we play more than half the time. The rotation inside with him and with Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett, and others as we’re going through that, he has fit right in.”
5. Special-teams action. Quinn will key in on the special-teams units.
“Here’s what I can tell you on the fourth-down plays,” Quinn said. “Lots of them are long distance. Punt return you know that this play is going to last six or seven seconds.
“Do you have the intensity and the speed to stay down? On the punt team, do you have the speed to cover 40, 50, or 60 yards in some cases with Matt Bosher. You better be able to fly on teams. At gunner where you’ve got two guys trying to hold you, you can imagine how difficult that job is. If you don’t have speed to attack one guy and beat him, it’s going to be a long day.”
FALCONS 2017 EXHIBITION SEASON
STEELERS 17, FALCONS 13
DOLPHINS 23, FALCONS 20