It is finally August. NFL football is back in action. The 2014 NFL Hall of Fame Game kicked off the preseason schedule, and many teams begin preseason play tonight for what should be a very exciting year for NFL Football.
For the Atlanta Falcons, it has been a training camp filled with excitement, progression and injuries. With their first game tonight against the Miami Dolphins, head coach Mike Smith has been challenging his players in terms of their toughness and willingness to progress, ultimately proving to the NFL world how they plan to come back stronger than ever after finishing 4-12 last season.
In terms of winners, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and 2014 first-round draft pick Jake Matthews have been nothing less than amazing. Before Jones ended his 2013 season in Week 5 with a broken right foot, he was leading the NFL in receptions. Now, in training camp, Smith said in an article written by the Associated Press, “Julio has looked fantastic.”
This is a great sign for quarterback Matt Ryan, who also will get the opportunity to throw touchdown passes to wide receiver Roddy White again this year. Smith is taking all precautions against playing Jones in tonight’s game, but Jones is ready if he is called upon.
With Jones healthy going into the season along with the other weapons at the wideout position, Ryan and the Falcons’ offense should have more stability depending on the health and level of play from their offensive line.
Honestly, with the way rookie right tackle Jake Matthews is playing, the offensive line has the potential to be very strong this year. Usually, it takes rookie offensive linemen a few years to get adjusted to the the speed and strength of veteran players, but Matthews has shown that he is ready to take charge on the offensive line. He has outplayed Falcon veteran players like defensive end Kroy Biermann. Not to mention, he looks good in drills and has worked hard in terms of conditioning for the season.
With Matthews, newcomer Jon Asamoah, Justin Blalock, Sam Baker and center Joe Hawley as projected starters, the Falcons should be strong up front against opposing defenses, allowing them to showcase that they are a much improved unit from a year ago that allowed Ryan to be sacked a career-high 44 times.
The Falcons worst enemy or “loser” in training camp has been players becoming injured on the defensive side of the ball, specifically at the safety position.
Safety Dwight Lowery’s status is up in the air, suffering his third NFL concussion. Lowery is the projected starter but as of now, his status does not look good. Dezmen Southward is bouncing back from a knee injury he suffered during training camp and Zeke Motta may not play this season due to a neck injury, forcing the Falcons to train cornerbacks Robert McClain and rookie Ricardo Allen at safety.
I really hope the projected starters at safety can progress through the remainder of camp and preseason. However, if not, it is good Smith signed former Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions safety Tyrell Johnson. In five NFL seasons, Johnson has played in 53 games, totaling 126 tackles (100 solo), two interceptions, and 10 passes defensed. Thus, if either of the safeties are unable to bounce back from injury, Johnson has the experience to step and play the position. Overall, this will definitely be something worth paying close attention to going into tonight’s game, throughout the remainder of the preseason and into the regular season.