Falcons Rushing Game Explodes Into Life & Other Preseason Talking Points

Falcons Rushing Game Explodes Into Life & Other Preseason Talking Points
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It’s finally over. Much like the final day of the season, all 32 teams were in action last night and three of the four NFC South teams won their preseason finale, with the Falcons getting some much needed momentum going into the season, albeit from a meaningless game. The games were largely an opportunity to fill the last five to ten roster spots of each team and ultimately the last time roughly 800 players will pull on pads if they miss out on practice squads.

Sankey & Elliss Give Saints Tough Choice
Darnell Sankey was the best performer for the Saints with eight tackles (five solo). The problem is that Kaden Elliss also had a strong game (seven tackles, two solo) as the pair battle it out for backup Middle Linebacker. The Saints may carry a third MLB but it’s likely one will be cut unless they are versatile enough to cover all LB positions. The Saints will likely go with rookie Elliss and Sankey will be signed elsewhere on Saturday.

Saints Offence In Gear
The Saints offence showed signs of improvement with Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater combining for 22/30 and 181 yards with 124 yards rushing too. Bridgewater is an unlikely cut candidate, depending upon whether the Saints feel that Hill can carry full backup responsibilities. The Saints were solid if unspectacular but it looks like the Saints have far better depth with Jacquizz Rodgers and Simmie Cobbs Jr among others.

Falcons Rushing Game Explodes Into Life
The Falcons offensive line really clicked into gear and held off the backup Jaguars defence as the Falcons rushed for a mammoth 255 yards on 39 carries. Despite rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns, Tony Brooks-James looks set to be dropped to the practice squad . Rookie Qadree Ollison didn’t perform quite as well and faces a battle to make the roster with 51 yards and a touchdown from 14 carries. Ultimately 255 yards, plus 170 passing yards from Danny Etling is a very positive sign for the Falcons.

Ryan Neal Puts Himself On Radar
It’s unlikely that Cornerback Ryan Neal will make the roster with two drafted rookies ahead of him on the depth chart, but he will have made other teams take notice with quite a performance. The second year pro had seven tackles, six solo tackles and two pass deflections as he looks to make a practice squad.

Mixed Bag For Will Grier
Rookie QB Grier had an eventful day. He lost a fumble for an 88 yard touchdown and had an interception as well as being sacked four times. That said, he had his most productive day as a pro, with 189 yards, going 11-18 with a passing TD. With doubt surrounding Cam Newton’s week one status, there were signs of encouragement if Grier does see the field but with the defending conference champion Rams visiting, the Panthers may look to start the season with a more known quantity under centre. Heinecke helped his cause to make the roster with figures of 7/10 for 89 yards, two TDs and an INT but it will be a tough choice for the Panthers in who to cut, not helped at all by Cam Newton’s injury status.

Joey Slye Likely To Make Roster
With news of Graham Gano starting the season on IR, it secures Joey Slye’s position on the week one roster. The rookie went 1/2, making a 59 yarder with two successful PATs. Slye will need to prove it in the regular season but this could be the end of Gano in Carolina.

Emmanuel Smith Makes Late Roster Push
Smith put in a great performance with eight tackles (six solo), a pass deflection and a tackle for loss. Smith is fifth choice Linebacker and battling with Jack Cichy, Devantae Bond and Kevin Minter to make the roster. It will be touch and go whether he makes the roster, especially battling against the experience of Minter but if not, he should make the practice squad.

Arians Offence Ineffective
Yes it’s only preseason but the Bucs offence struggled against the Cowboys. While Tampa aren’t expecting to pull up any trees this season, it’s not the offence that is expected to be the problem and they produced just 245 yards of total offence, minus 28 yards from four sacks, and a further 85 in penalties. Of course it’s only backups, in fact some backups were left out too, but Bruce Arians has yet to prove he has made a significant difference in Tampa.

We’re finally there. Preseason is in the books and the next NFL action in a week’s time will have a meaningful result. We’ll have previews of the NFC South team’s seasons running next week with a wide open division as everyone looks to chase down the Saints.

Image: AtlantaFalcons.com

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