There may be many who over look the importance of a final preseason game, but Arthur Smith is not one of them. When asked how much hay was in the proverbial barn ahead of Saturday's game with Jacksonville, Smith said when it comes to preseason evaluations the hay is "never in the barn."
"It's a very important game for a lot of guys on Saturday," Smith said.
With a 53-man roster cut down imminent, decisions have to be made. So, with this in mind, let's break down what we're watching when the Falcons face the Jaguars at home on Saturday.
1. Separation at wide receiver
I know what you're thinking: Tori, didn't you write about this before the last preseason game? And the answer is yes because it's still something I am watching!
We have a little more clarity when it comes to who will make the final cut come the 53-man roster trim down next week. The Falcons have already released Geronimo Allison and Auden Tate. However, there's still decisions to be made at this position group, and it's as competitive as any when it comes to players fighting for a spot.
Smith was asked earlier in the week what he needed to see from these wide receivers in order to account for a separation from the pack. He said he needs to see two things: "Consistency" and "Guys we can trust." That's what he's looking for on Saturday.
So, who earns the final few roster spots at the position? KhaDarel Hodge, Frank Darby, Damiere Byrd, Cameron Batson or Jared Bernhardt? And what combination of this group will the Falcons decide to keep? We'll know soon enough.
2. Defensive line depth
We know Grady Jarrett, Anthony Rush and Ta'Quon Graham are locks across the interior defensive line. But depth is something that's much more difficult to find considering the injuries that have accumulated at the position throughout the preseason.
We've seen a lot of Abdullah Anderson, Timothy Horne, Nick Thurman and Derrick Tangelo over the course of the last two weeks of the preseason as the Falcons work to figure out those depth pieces. Saturday's game is one final opportunity for the Falcons to decide before Week 1 if they have the depth they need already in place.
With this position group, it may be more beneficial for the Falcons to look across the league for reinforcements. Is there a player or two that falls off a 53-man roster elsewhere that could be a better depth piece fit here in Atlanta? That's what the Falcons will be weighing over the coming days.
3. Any tight end reps for Feleipe Franks?
We saw a lot of Franks at quarterback against the Jets on Monday night. I'll be honest, I want to see him at tight end.
Throughout all of camp, Franks' tight end reps have greatly outnumbered his quarterback reps. And yet, we haven't seen him at tight end much at all throughout the preseason games. Is Saturday's game the one in which we finally get to see that happen? Who knows. If the Falcons want to follow a similar pattern to the second preseason game, though, we may not see Franks at tight end at all.
For how much we've seen him at practice at tight end, not seeing him in the preseason at tight end - to me - would be a disappointment that no one else gets to see him in that capacity the way we have during training camp.
4. Avery Williams cross training
Williams has taken a majority of his reps at running back this preseason, but the Falcons worked him sparingly at defensive back this week.
Smith said Williams is going to be a contributor on offense, but the coaching staff wanted to see him in the secondary because it's a contingency plan if anything happens depth-wise at the position. They want Williams prepared to slot in if needed.
Does this mean we will see Williams line up at running back and defensive back on Saturday? It may be interesting if we do.
5. A budge in the center battle stronghold
Matt Hennessy. Drew Dalman. The single most competitive battle for a starting spot there is on this roster.
I've written about this duo and their evaluations a thousand times this camp. And at this moment there's been no movement to know who's taken the lead to be the starting center come Week 1.
Pay attention to who the Falcons run out there with the first team, though. Hennessy got the start against Detroit. Dalman got the start against New York. Do we find out which way this staff is leaning based on who they run out there first against Jacksonville? Perhaps.
We take a look as the Jaguars join us in Flowery Branch.