ATLANTA – The Falcons have 80 men on their roster, for a few more days at least. They played with far fewer on Saturday night.
Most everyone the first-team offense and defense, plus quite few from the second units didn't play the preseason finale against Jacksonville.
This game was played by reserves on both sides, with fringe players accounting for most snaps just 15 days before a contest that truly counts.
Smart move by head coach Arthur Smith to keep his major contributors out of harm's way, while A. getting a closer look fringe players, and B. letting those not set to make the team get tons of game film.
There were still quite a few who stood out in this one. Let's take a look at some notable performers from a 28-12 result at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:
Falcons tough runners: Qadree Ollison third-year pro runs hard. And, with improved burst, he's getting through holes and hitting folks on the second level just a little bit faster. That's the difference between a so-so run and an efficient one.
He ended up with 30 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in this, a sum that included some really tough runs. Ollison's squarely on the roster bubble, possible dependent on overall roster math and how many running backs are kept. He has looked good several times in this preseason, including Saturday.
Caleb Huntley also had some standout moments, including a 21-yard run and a TD jaunt, and led the team with a solid per carry average. Tyler Allgeier had a touchdown as well and earned some hard yards on the ground late in this one.
ILB Deion Jones: It's an oddity to see someone with Deion Jones' resume play in a preseason finale, but the inside linebacker is in a unique spot. He came off the active/PUP on Wednesday – he had offseason shoulder surgery -- asked and willing to work his way up from the reserve units to earn a spot. That included some first-half action on Saturday, where he did have a stat but was active around the ball and looked fluid and fast in coverage.
DL Derrick Tangelo: The undrafted rookie – did you know he was Ebiketie's roommate last year at Penn State?!? – had a productive day working on the defensive line, where there are available spots up for grabs. He was someone strongly contending for one before this game, when he had a sack and two tackles for a loss. Tangelo continues to show up. So does fellow undrafted rookie Timmy Horne, who's another option among some journeyman prospects.
QB Desmond Ridder: The rookie quarterback's performance included some good and some bad. Such is life for a developing rookie. It was good work either way over three-and-a-half quarters under center.
His final line: 14-for-21 passing, 185 yards (8.8 ypa) 1 TD, 2 INT (one was an end-of-half heave), 70.6 rating.
My main takeaway, which I've had several times watching Ridder, has little to do with preseason stats: The man doesn't get rattled. He throws an interception on the game's first pass, then orchestrates a 15-play touchdown drive with three third-down conversions. He misses an easy pass attempt, then throws a perfect strike deep. Being unfazed is a good trait to have. Ridder has that in spades.
We could dissect his entire performance with tweezers and a microscope, but we shouldn't. We should say that he has made great progress during the preseason and is better for all the work he received this summer.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars in the second preseason game of 2022.
OLB Arnold Ebiketie: The second-round pick played a good amount on Saturday – presumptive starters Lorenzo Carter and Ade Ogundeji did not – and made two tackles for a loss in this one. He was in the backfield and solid overall, though not perfect, against Jacksonville's second unit. The Falcons will count on him to contribute as a rookie, and any experience will help leading into his first regular season.
P Bradley Pinion: Odd to mention a specialist set for the roster in this space, but Pinion deserves recognition regardless of the game stakes. The veteran pickup was awesome in this one, launching punts high and deep on a consistent basis. That included a 63-yarder that landed near a sideline. While the Falcons have had some uncertainty at punter in recent seasons, they're entering 2022 with a good one locked in.
OLB Quinton Bell:The second-year man out of Prairie View A&M is in contention for a roster spot. And, when discussing those final roster spots, special teams plays a massive role in awarding them. That's why Bell's blocked punt was so well timed. He came up huge in the second quarterback, screaming into the backfield to knock down a volley deep in Jaguars territory that DeAngelo Malone recorded on the 1-yard line. While Ollison got credit for the score, that touchdown really belongs to Bell.