The Atlanta Falcons (0-1) return to the field on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins down in South Florida for their second preseason game of 2019. There were some interesting takeaways from Atlanta's 14-10 loss in the Hall of Fame Game, but the Falcons should provide even more reasons to watch on Thursday.
How will the offensive line look?
Coach Dan Quinn said this week that he is treating this second preseason game as the first one for the veterans and starters on Atlanta's roster, and he explained that fans will see more of those players out there against the Dolphins. But, while it will be fun to see the Falcons' starters back it action, it's the offensive line that should be watched most closely. The unit has been retooled this offseason, and fans will get their first chance to see rookie Chris Lindstrom in there with the first team. A good showing in the trenches would provide a bit of optimism with the season approaching.
Isaiah Oliver's starting role
As Matt Tabeek and I discussed in our podcast, this week should be the first time we see Isaiah Oliver opposite Desmond Trufant at the other starting cornerback spot. The second-year player has all of the physical tools needed to succeed in Atlanta's scheme, and he received some quality playing time late during the 2018 season. But is he ready to take over Robert Alford's role, and can he continue to develop into a reliable corner on the outside?
A bounce-back from the returners
The return battle is one of the true camp battles the Falcons have had going on, but those vying for that role didn't get off to the best start last Thursday. Rookie receivers Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus each dropped a punt, and neither had a major return. Green injured his hamstring in the loss, and it's unclear whether he will be out there against Miami. Veteran returner Kenjon Barner may see his first action of the preseason on Thursday, and this job is still very much up for grabs.
Can certain players continue to build momentum?
There were a few standout performances during Atlanta's first preseason game. Most notably, John Cominsky, Brian Hill, Justin Zimmer and Chris Lindstrom. Can those young players continue to build upon their strong opening game? Cominsky and Zimmer are fighting to earn a spot on the defensive line rotation, while Hill is trying to make a name for himself in a very crowded and deep backfield. Lindstrom continues to work with the starters at right guard, and another good outing from him will help fans gain even more confidence in the team's first-round pick.
Leaving Miami with a win
Winning or losing in the preseason does not matter – and I cannot stress that enough – but the Falcons have lost their last nine exhibition games. Their last preseason win came in the final game of the 2016 preseason. Although it's ultimately pointless whether a team wins or loses in the preseason, fans would certainly feel a bit better if Atlanta leaves Miami victoriously.