ATLANTA -- While Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has been non-committal thus far when asked who quarterback Matt Ryan's backup would be, veteran AJ McCarron has always been the frontrunner over Feleipe Franks.
Friday's 23-3 preseason loss to the Tennessee Titans may have complicated the competition. Neither quarterback saw much success in the air, combining for only 52 passing yards. Franks may have made up some ground on the ground, however, racking up 76 yards on just four carries.
That certainly caught Smith's attention.
"With AJ, the operation was a little cleaner, but there were no results behind that because of the entire picture of the offense the first half." Smith said. "The second half, with Feleipe, we want to be a little better operationally. What Feleipe clearly showed was that he can extend plays. So that was good to see."
The offense dealt with early growing pains against Tennessee, particularly on the offensive line. McCarron and Franks were sacked five times on the day, and each saw plays converted called back on penalties from the offensive front. Franks' ability to extend plays helped put the Falcons in scoring positions, highlighted by a 52-yard run at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
"If I can't extend the play, I try to stay in the pocket and deliver a good, catchable ball for the receiver," Franks said. "If I have to extend the play with running or getting outside the pocket and throwing, I try to do that as well. I try to be the most complete quarterback I can be."
There's surely no shortage of areas the coaching staff identified as needing improvement heading into Miami next week. Getting the pass game going is certainly one after McCarron went 5-for-12 for 36 yards and Franks only converted 2-of-9 attempts for 16 yards on the night. That combined passing yardage equaled by Franks single break out run.
Don't hit the panic button on the backup quarterbacks just yet, even after that lackluster performance. This is what the preseason is for. This feeling-out period is designed to get those kinks worked out.
"There are things to always improve on, myself included," said Franks. "A couple protection things here and there. It takes all 11 of us to go out there and compete at the highest level. From a team standpoint, just achieving and going out and playing clean ball. Obviously, there are some things we can clean up with the penalties and that starts with me at quarterback."
McCarron and Franks were getting constant feedback between drives from both Smith and Ryan, providing insights and what the quarterbacks should do differently in specific situations.
"There's things to correct," said Franks. "Getting the chains moving and getting points on the board. Our main goal was just managing the offense, leading guys and getting better at third-down conversions. For a lot of those guys, rookies coming out and playing their first NFL game, I thought we did a good job and there's something to improve on heading into next week."
Facing joint practices with the Dolphins in Miami before playing them Aug. 21, the Falcons will have plenty of time to address their offensive concerns. More practice time and effort could help produce better a better showing.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans in the first preseason game of 2021.