Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- Playing without their starters, the Atlanta Falcons were outmatched, falling to the Dolphins 34-7 in their final preseason game.
With the regular season beginning next week, the Falcons elected to rest their starters to avoid injuries, which made way for the backups to give the coaches a final showcase of their talents before final roster decisions are made.
It was a struggle from the start for Atlanta on both sides of the ball, who gave up touchdowns on the first two possessions while going three-and-out on their first two offensive drives.
Leading the offense at quarterback for the Falcons was Kurt Benkert. The undrafted rookie out of the University of Virginia received high praise coming out of training camp, but had struggled up to this point in the preseason and would need a good performance to impress the coaches and prove himself deserving a roster spot.
Unfortunately, Benkert struggled, completing just 10 of his 25 passes for 103-yards and two interceptions while playing the through the first three quarters. It remains to be seen what the plan is for the rookie, but if the Falcons see value in him, they can always stash him on the practice squad to continue to give him time to develop.
The offense as a whole couldn’t find a rhythm, gaining just 286 yards in the game, turning the ball over twice with those two Benkert interceptions, and only scoring once. Scoring points has been an issue for Atlanta even with the starters playing, and will be something that needs to be addressed as we reach the doorstep of the regular season.
The lone touchdown for the Falcons was scored in the second quarter, as running back Malik Williams was able to run hard through a couple of missed tackles from 8-yards out on his way into the end zone. The rookie out of Louisville would finish with seven rushes for 20-yards and the touchdown but would leave the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
Despite giving up 34 points, the standout for the Atlanta defense was Emmanuel Ellerbee. The rookie out of Rice was all over the field, had seven total tackles with five of them being solo. Ellerbee made a strong case for himself to make the final roster, which could provide the Falcons some nice depth at the linebacker position.
Falcon’s head coach Dan Quinn spoke about Ellerbee’s performance saying, “We really feel like he made a jump in the last ten days or so and had a good week of practice.” He continued, “There are those plateau’s sometimes that you hit as a rookie…you’ve gotta fight through these ceilings that come and he certainly did that this week.”
With the loss, the Falcons final record in the preseason is 0-4. Wins and losses in the preseason are generally not a good barometer to whether or not an NFL team is good or not, and should be the case with this Falcons squad that is loaded with talent all over the field. Atlanta will regroup and get ready to head into their big week one matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, where they will suit up for real.
The Falcons and Eagles will kick off from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for Thursday night football at 8:20 p.m.