Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- Week three of NFL preseason is upon us as the Atlanta Falcons travel down to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars to begin their final stretch toward the 2018 NFL regular season.
Heading into last week’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta wanted to see improvement from their offense after being shutout in their preseason opener. Progress was made with the starters, who scored 14 quick points before being pulled early in the second quarter.
Week three is typically when starters begin to see increased playing time as teams begin preparations for the regular season, so the Falcons will look for continued development of the offense under second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
When asked how long he anticipated using his starters, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said, “Generally somewhere between three or four series or two quarters. I generally have a sense of what I’d like to see get done and it could take up to two quarters or three or four series depending on if they were shorter or longer.” Coach Quinn also noted there isn’t a blanket set of snaps for each string, as some players, especially the younger guys, could see more reps than others.
Up to this point, coach Quinn has held out star offensive players in wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman from playing. It looks like that will continue throughout the rest of the preseason, as when asked if he plans to wait to use them until the regular season Quinn responded, “Likely. Really had the plan of going through the spring based on some of their injury history, we knew we wanted to ramp their work up in camp but maybe not get them the reps in the game.”
Without two of their offensive stars, Atlanta’s veteran quarterback Matt Ryan will have the opportunity for extended reps with some of his other offensive weapons, including rookie Calvin Ridley, who has begun to turn heads after an impressive week two performance where he caught his first professional touchdown.
Ridley will be the player to watch on offense in this one, who gets more and more impressive as he and Matt Ryan get more acclimated with each other. If Ridley can continue to live up to the lofty expectations of being a first-round pick, the Falcons have another big weapon in what was already a stacked offense.
Although they gave up 28-points in last week’s game, the defense was a similar story to the offense in that the starters were overall impressive as they only gave up three points, and they will continue to progressively ramp themselves up as we get closer to the start of the season.
Second-string safety Damontae Kazee has impressed throughout the preseason, and continues to be someone who’s development will be something to watch in week three. After leading the NFL in tackles after week one, Kazee continued to make waves with an impressive interception in week two off of Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
With just two preseason games left before the start of the regular season, the home stretch of the preseason is here. The Falcons are beginning preparations for their big week one matchup against the defending super bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. First, though, Atlanta will get a measuring stick matchup in their third preseason game, as they take on a young and talented Jaguars team who is looking to improve upon their playoff appearance from the 2017 season.
Falcons and Jaguars kickoff Saturday at 7:00 p.m. from TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.