The Falcons will officially usher NFL football back into our lives when they face the Denver Broncos at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday in the league's annual NFL Hall of Fame Game.
LIVE IN-GAME UPDATES
The Falcons will have now five preseason games instead of the traditional four. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is looking at this extra game as a great opportunity to better evaluate some of the younger players on the roster.
That will likely be the case against the Broncos. Julio Jones has already stated he will not play any preseason games this season, and it's unlikely the Falcons play many starters on Thursday night. So, with that in mind, here are five things fans should look for against the Broncos.
The offensive guard spots
Atlanta invested its first-overall pick in the draft on right guard Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom has been running with the starters in training camp, but there's a pretty good shot he gets a series or three out there on Thursday night. On the opposite side at left guard, the Falcons have a competition between veterans James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Atlanta brought both players in as free agents and has been rotating them with regularity on the left side. Can one of them get a leg up?
Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison's roles
Without Tevin Coleman as the primary backup to Devonta Freeman, the Falcons may take a more specialized approach with its running back depth. One of those roles the team will likely need is a short-yardage back. Atlanta drafted Qadree Ollison with such a role in mind, but Brian Hill is making a strong charge at that job as well. Both players have the size and strength to fill that job, but a few strong preseason games will really help make that case.
Do Dan Quinn or Dirk Koetter show anything
Thursday night will provide the first opportunity to see what the Falcons look like under new leadership on either side of the ball. Dirk Koetter will be calling Atlanta's offense for the first time since 2014, and although teams often play a very simplified version of football in the preseason, it will be interesting to see if there are any notable wrinkles shown. Defensively, Quinn is returning to his roots and taking over. What will that look like with Atlanta's personnel, particularly on the defensive line?
What can Marcus Green do as a returner
When the Falcons selected Marcus Green in the sixth round of this year's draft, it appeared they were doing so with special teams first in mind. Green was an excellent returner at Louisiana-Monroe, and he's been getting plenty of reps at that spot in practice so far. He figures to handle much of that role against the Broncos, and he's got the combination of speed and agility to make a few big-time highlights. If he pulls off a couple of huge returns this preseason, Green may have an inside track at that job.
Any big surprises at receiver or in the secondary
Sometimes the best approach to take when you don't know what to look for is to just sit back and allow something to grab your attention. The younger receivers and defensive backs Atlanta has on its roster are certainly capable of doing that. There are a lot of strong candidates at receiver with guys like Christian Blake, Devin Gray, Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus having good camps. And cornerbacks Isaiah Oliver, Jordan Miller and Kendall Sheffield will be fascinating to watch this preseason. All of those players will likely have a couple of opportunities to stand out.
The Atlanta Falcons walked among the busts of the greatest to ever play the game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The team is in Canton to kick off the 2019 season against the Denver Broncos Thursday night.