FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After dropping what coach Dan Quinn referred to as a sloppy 17-0 loss to the Jets in their preseason opener, the Falcons will take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night for their second preseason game.
Quinn is hoping to see his team respond and get back to playing to their standard of football.
Atlanta's first exhibition game was marked with penalties and was not to the level of efficiency that Quinn expects. It's important to remember the final outcome of preseason games are meaningless – it's all about the evaluation of players that takes place. Here are some of the storylines to watch for on Friday:
1. How long the first-team offense plays and will they be more efficient?
Against the Jets, the Falcons' starting offense only played one series that resulted in a three-and-out. Will their playing time increase this time around? Quarterback Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian have both said they want to see a more "efficient" showing from the starters. Will they move the football better? It's important to note that there will be times in preseason games that Sarkisian will call a play to see how a player will respond to gather further information.
"We need to see how a player is going to respond to certain situations," Sarkisian said. "And as much stress as we can put on them gives us more information. Whether it's a runner on a specific run or a receiver on a specific route or a lineman on a specific block, it goes all the way down the line. Those things are invaluable to us."
Wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman did not play in the Falcons' first preseason game and Quinn said he has yet to make a decision on whether they will play against the Chiefs.
2. What will the returner rotation look like? Will Ridley return get a look?
One of main position battles this offseason has been at the kick and punt returner positions. This week, special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said the coaching staff won't make a decision until all four preseason games are played. Against the Jets, wide receiver Marvin Hall, cornerback Isaiah Oliver and running back Ito Smith shared the return duties. Quinn said this will likely change as they continue to evaluate all of their options at this position. When asked if rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be one of the players who will get a look this week, Quinn said, "you might."
3. How will Duke Riley play in his second preseason game?
All offseason we've heard about the progress linebacker Duke Riley has made from Year 1 to Year 2. Following the first preseason game in which he saw a significant amount of playing time in the first half, Riley finished the night recording three tackles. Riley is a player the Falcons are counting on to make an impact this season, and he's ready to embrace that role by focusing on what he can control, not looking back in the past.
"I've watched film, I went over it and corrected my mistakes," Riley said. "But all I'm worried about is getting better. Today is today and that's all I'm worried about. What happened in the past is the past, so that's all I'm really worried about right now."
4. How will the six rookie draft picks perform?
Atlanta's first preseason game provided a first-look at the Falcons' rookie draft picks. Although we saw limited action from Calvin Ridley, Deadrin Senat, Isaiah Oliver, Foye Oluokun and Ito Smith all saw extensive time. Russell Gage was in on seven special teams plays. Getting reps in games at this point is extremely beneficial as the regular season nears closer and closer. Quinn has said he expects a number of the rookies to have an impact this year. With one game under their belt, the jitters are gone. Do they look more comfortable?
5. Which undrafted free agent steps up this time?
Against the Jets, receiver Devin Gray led the team in receiving yards with 83 yards on four catches. Linebacker Jonathan Celestin recorded the lone sack of the night. Quarterback Kurt Benkert threw for 125 yards. All players who signed with the Falcons as undrafted free agents this spring. Who will step up in this week's game? [TM1]LINK: https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/dan-quinn-on-falcons-loss-to-jets-the-penalties-in-this-game-cost-us