The third preseason game on an NFL schedule always gets the most hype. That will absolutely be the case when the Falcons take on the Dolphins Saturday night on the road at Sun Life Stadium.
Roster cuts are looming, starting positions are still up for grabs and at least one player will be seeing his first preseason action. If that buildup wasn’t enough, this game typically goes down as a team’s dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters usually play into the second half so teams can work on adjustments at halftime and put those tweaks into the game plan.
When Atlanta plays Miami on Saturday, it will be the closest to regular-season football we get until Sept. 14 rolls around. Here’s what to watch:
1. Tevin Coleman Will Likely Play
Neither of the Falcons’ top two running backs are guaranteed to play Saturday and neither have been ruled out, but head coach Dan Quinn led the media to believe Tevin Coleman would hit the field for his first professional action.
"At this point, it looks like Tevin is a little closer than Devonta [Freeman]," said Quinn. “I’m anticipating he’s ready to rock.” Freeman remains a question mark to play, according to Quinn on Thursday.
Both running backs strained hamstrings during the first week of camp as they were competing to emerge as Atlanta’s featured back. Getting back to the playing field quick could help Coleman in that battle, but there’s really no way a decision can be made until both are healthy and given ample opportunities.
Who ends up as the No. 1 running back might not be determined until the regular season.
2. The Lack of Depth at Tackle
The offensive line hasn’t done a bad job of protecting Atlanta’s quarterbacks through two preseason games. But a question of depth remains, especially at the tackle position.
With Lamar Holmes out because of a broken foot, the guys behind starters Ryan Schraeder and Jake Matthews have extra pressure to produce when called to work. They haven’t instilled a lot of confidence with their play.
Tyler Polumbus has given up a sack, a quarterback hit and two hurries in 59 snaps over two games. Jake Rodgers has given up a sack and a hurry in his 59 snaps. Polumbus and Rodgers could very well be the backup tackles when the roster gets set for the regular season. It’s time for them to show something positive against a good Miami front seven.
3. Roster Cuts Loom
All NFL teams must trim their roster to 75 players by Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. ET. That means 15 players will be cut between the end of action Saturday night and Tuesday afternoon.
While Atlanta’s game versus Miami remains a dress rehearsal for the starters, the later parts of the third quarter and the entire fourth will all be about guys fighting for their football lives. Who’s going to step up?
4. Can the Pass Rush Continue, Expand?
Through two games the Falcons’ defense has five sacks, three quarterback hits and 14 hurries. There has definitely been improvement from the last two seasons.
Rookie Vic Beasley and free-agent pass-rusher Adrian Clayborn have been a force on the right side when they’ve played together. The interior of the defensive line – Jonathan Babineaux, Ra’Shede Hageman, Grady Jarrett and Tyson Jackson – has pushed exceptionally well into the backfield, and backups like Stansly Maponga and Cliff Matthews have shown growth.
One of the weakest portions of Atlanta’s defense last season was its pass rush, and there’s still a lot more improvement that could be made. Will the Falcons dial up more pressure against the Dolphins?
What to watch for in Game Three Saturday
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