Team turned in shaky performance in dress rehearsal game

The Falcons had an abysmal performance in their dress-rehearsal exhibition game against a stout Jacksonville team as they dropped to 0-3 on the exhibition season at TIAA Bank Stadium on Saturday night. 

Here are the 10 things we learned in the Falcons’ 17-6 loss: 

1. Dropped passes: The glaring takeaway from the game was the four dropped passes by tight end Austin Hooper, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who had two. 

This was an issue for the Falcons last season as they led the NFL with 30 drops.

Sanu dropped a potential touchdown pass on a third-and-1 situation. 

“I have to make that catch.” Sanu said. “It was a nice throw by Matt (Ryan). He put a pretty good hit on me, but I have to catch that.”

Ridley was calm after the game. He acknowledged that he attempted to run before securing the ball on his first dropped pass. 

Quinn referred to the dropped passes as “self-inflicted wounds.”

“Those are things that we can control, and so if we lose focus on missed assignments, that would be one,” Quinn said. “If we lose focus on a drop, that would be one. Those are two that I know that we can control. So, when we don’t nail those opportunities, those are difficult ones, and that really happened in a number of spots.”

2. The defense got gashed: The Falcons’ first-team defense, playing without three starters, did not hold up against the Jaguars’ rushing attack. 

The Jaguars rushed for 147 yards on 30 carries (4.9 per carry) and Leonard Fournette waltzed through the defense for a 21-yard touchdown run. On the previous play, Corey Grant ripped off a 19-yard gain. 

“He’s the type of running back that you can’t let him get going,” Falcons defensive tackle Terrell McClain said of Fournette. “Once he gets past that first level, it makes it that much harder to take him down. He’s like a locomotive. Once he starts to get going, It’s hard to take him down.” 

The Falcons believe they have enough time to get the run defense fortified before the regular-season opener against the Eagles on Sept. 6. 

“We’re not where we want to be yet,” defensive tackle Grady  Jarrett said. “That’s good because we can only get better.”

3. Kazee’s hit: Falcons free safety Damontae Kazee was called for lowering the helmet to initiate contact after hitting Jaguars wide receiver Marquise Lee in the first quarter at an angle.

Lee’s knee was injured on the play and he taken off the field on a cart. 

Kazee was more worried about Lee. 

“I haven’t look at it yet,” Kazee said of the penalty. “But my condolences go out to him. I was trying to make a football play. I wasn’t trying to get (anybody) injured. I prayed for both teams today, no injuries. That man has a family. I apologize (to them) for what happened. I’m going to pray for him tonight.”

The penalty appeared questionable.

“I was trying to make a football play,” Kazee said.

Kazee, safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Jonathan Celestin led the Falcons with five tackles each.

“After that play earlier, it was a long game,” Kazee said. “That’s what I was thinking about. I was thinking about him (Lee). Hopefully, he’s alright. Hopefully the X-Rays look good. Hopefully he can come back and play.”

4. Offensive line had tough outing: The interior of the offensive line did not distinguish itself against a stout Jaguars defensive front seven. 

The rushing attack was inconsistent and the line gave up four sacks and five quarterback hits. 

5. Plays on the ball: Cornerback Robert Alford tipped up Blake Bortles’ first pass and Neal intercepted the ball.

Reserve cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson also had an interception. 

“To finish the game plus-2 (turnover margin) was certainly a step in the right direction for us,” Quinn said.

6. Oliver learning on the job: Rookie Isaiah Oliver, the team’s second-round pick, started at left cornerback for Desmond Trufant and it didn’t take long for Bortles to find him. He connected with wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a 37-yard gain early in the second quarter. 

Moncrief got inside Oliver on a deep crossing route. Bortles hit him in stride and the speedy wide receiver raced across the field before being tackled by Robert Alford. 

7. Kicking game is ready: Place-kicker Matt Bryant made his exhibition season debut and made field goals of 47 and 33 yards. He looked strong in warm-ups. 

Punter Matt Bosher had a 52-yard punt that had 5.03 seconds of hang-time. He bottled the Jaguars up at the 2-yard line.

8. Returners solid: Oliver returned two punts for seven yards.

Ito Smith had a 31-yard kickoff return and Reggie Davis had a 25-yard kickoff return. 

When Ridley was back deep on kickoff returns, the Jaguars kicked the ball into the end zone for two touchbacks. 

9. Schaub ready to go: Veteran backup Matt Schaub looked good again. He’s ready for the season. 

Quinn pronounced him as the No. 2 quarterback last week.

Kurt Benkert, after a fast start, has fizzled some in the battle for a third quarterback spot.

10. Injury report: The Falcons did not play Trufant (coaches’ decision), free safety Ricardo Allen (was limping at practice), wide receiver Julio Jones (coaches’ decision), middle linebacker Deion Jones (strain lower leg), wide receiver Marvin Hall (strain), (strain), running back Devonta Freeman (coaches’ decision) and reserve guard Ben Garland (strain). 

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.

X