FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The third preseason game is often used as a primary tune-up for the regular season, and the Falcons' offense couldn't ask for a better sparring partner than the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense.
The Jaguars ranked second in the NFL in both yards and points per game last season, allowing 286.1 yards and 16.8 points. Jacksonville had six Pro Bowlers last season on defense, including defensive lineman Calais Campbell who was selected but didn't play in the game, and at least one Pro Bowler on every level of the defense.
"It's a heck of a test," Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said of the upcoming game. "They do a great job. They're good on all three levels – as I like to say – on defense. The front, they're backers can really play and run and in the secondary. This is a heck of a challenge. They're really well-coached, they've got good schemes, they've got good answers. So, this is a good challenge for us not only schematically but from man-to-man to go win our one-on-one battles, this is a good test for us."
After failing to pick up a first down on their first series against the Jets, the Falcons' offense drove 65 yards in seven plays and scored a touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper on their opening possession against the Chiefs.
The offense followed up that 65-yard drive with a 64-yard drive that ended with a failed fourth-down conversion inside of the red zone. After that missed opportunity, the Falcons picked right back up where they left off and drove 75 yards to score their second touchdown of the game.
Atlanta's offensive starters and primary backups played well against Kansas City, but there are a few questions that remain to be ironed out. The Falcons still need to determine who will be the starting right guard, the starting fullback and the team's third running back, among other areas they're still evaluating.
There aren't many better tests for an NFL offense than the Jaguars right now, and Saturday night should help provide answers for the Falcons.
"This is a real task for us, because of the physicality that they play with in the front four," Sarkisian said. "The speed that they have at the linebacker level, and then the physicality at the secondary level. It's a great test. We're going to have to play good football to move the ball and put points on the board."