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Five Things We Learned vs. Jaguars

Posted Aug 29, 2013

The Falcons ended the 2013 preseason with an 0-4 record following their 20-16 loss to Jacksonville on Thursday night. The defense, led by mostly backups, put forth an encouraging showing with seven tackles for loss.


1. Rookie Corners Making Plays: One week after an up-and-down game, rookie Robert Alford didn't waste too much time getting involved in Thursday's game. On the second pass of the game from Jacksonville's Chad Henne, Alford picked it off and returned it 12 yards. Alford added three tackles and two passes defensed on the night. He ended the preseason with interceptions in two straight games and has continued to show gradual progression. The starting cornerback opposite Alford, Desmond Trufant, had a nice night as well; he came away with an interception of his own, the first of the preseason for the 2013 first-round pick, taking a Matt Scott pass away and setting up a score by the Falcons just before halftime. Alford also got in on the act in the return game, fielding four punts and two kickoffs. He appears to be in line as the No. 2 behind Jacquizz Rodgers for kick returning duties and Harry Douglas for punt returns. Trufant said Thursday’s two interceptions hopefully won’t be the last time the two team up like that: “It was cool. Hopefully the first of many, but we have to keep working. You can never be satisfied on anything. So, I’m just ready to watch the film and get better on that.”

2. Strength At Linebacker: While two Falcons rookie linebackers have stolen many of the highlights this preseason, there's one six-year veteran at the position that may have secured a spot, making the battle between those two rookies even more interesting. Robert James, the veteran and the two rookies, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow all saw a lot of action Thursday and they didn't do the coaches any favors in regards to an easy decision. James ended the night with a team-high seven tackles and Worrilow added three. Bartu played almost the entire night and didn't let up the tear he's been on during the preseason. He finished the game with four tackles, one tackle for loss and one QB hit. Depending on the availability of starting linebacker Stephen Nicholas to start the season, one of those three may be extremely valuable and there's a good chance at least one of them proves to be a key role player for the Falcons this season regardless of injuries.

PHOTOS: See Images From Falcons vs. Jaguars

3. Massaquoi's Triple Play: It's too early to know if some of what we've seen in the preseason will translate to the regular season, but there have been some encouraging pass rush signs from all around the defensive line. At the top of that list is Jonathan Massaquoi, who entered Thursday night with one sack already and he upped the ante a little in the final preseason game of the year. He added another sack in the second quarter, but made it really count with a strip for good measure, a recovery and a 9-yard touchdown run. The second-year defensive end closed out the night with four tackles in addition to the sack. The 2012 fifth-round pick said that was the first time in his career that he's scored a touchdown off a strip sack and fumble recovery.

4. Crowded RB House: The Falcons are set at the time of their running back depth chart with Steven Jackson and to a lesser extent at backup with Jacquizz Rodgers. You could even go as far as to say they're fine at No.3 with Jason Snelling. Against the Jaguars, the Falcons were able to break off some big runs, including a 9-yard run by Snelling and a 14-yard scamper by Rodgers. Perhaps the biggest play of the night came from Josh Vaughan. On his first run of the night in the third quarter he rattled off a 65-yard run for a touchdown and ended up with 83 yards. Not to be left out, Antone Smith added 20 yards on six rushes, giving the Falcons plenty to think about at running back with cuts looming. In total the Falcons gained 176 yards on 32 rushes for an average of 5.5 yards per carry.

5. Youthful D-Line Brings Pressure: The only sack on the night for the Falcons came from Massaquoi, but in total the defense earned seven tackles for loss. During this year’s preseason the Falcons defense has 21 tackles for loss. On Thursday they were led by Trey Robertson against the Jaguars with two tackles for loss and five other players chipped in one each. Massaquoi said the young guys have wanted to prove this preseason that they can bring the same pressure the starters can: "We have a bunch of young guys that have a lot of energy and we just want to bring that drive to show the coaches that when we're in there, the intensity doesn't change. We want the organization and coaches to know that if that first group is out we can bring that same intensity as backups."


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