Falcons vs. Jaguars: 5 things to look for in the preseason finale

Deadrin Senat 1

The Atlanta Falcons will play their final preseason game on Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This will be the final opportunity for a number of players on the current 90-man roster to make the case for a role on this team before the roster is cut to 53 players this weekend.


There likely won't be many -- if any -- starters playing, but given the importance of this game to the players who will be out there, it should be an entertaining one to watch.

Here are five things to look for in the preseason finale:

Atlanta's kicker battle

The Falcons brought in kicker Blair Walsh this week to provide some extra competition for Giorgio Tavecchio. Tavecchio missed a 39-yard field goal attempt last week against the Redskins, which came a week after he was 1-of-3 with a tipped kick against the Jets. Coach Dan Quinn said after the Redskins game he would evaluate the position, seemingly indicating that Walsh is here for a true battle with Tavecchio. And for added drama (and pressure), there are reports that the Falcons plan to give Matt Bryant a tryout on Friday.

Kaleb McGary's debut

All signs have indicated that first-round pick Kaleb McGary will make his Falcons debut on Thursday. The right tackle has been sidelined after a cardiac ablation procedure, but he returned to practice in full this week and "hit all of the markers" to see playing time, according to Quinn. He was right in the thick of a competition with Ty Sambrailo for the starting right tackle role when he underwent the procedure, and McGary just might get his first live game action to prove what he can do.

Matt Gono going again?

Speaking of right tackle, it will be enlightening to see who starts on the right side of the line against the Jaguars. Second-year player Matt Gono got the start against the Redskins and performed admirably. The former D-III player has developed greatly in his time with the Falcons and may make a strong case to be the team's starter with another good performance. If he isn't among the players out there on Thursday night, what might that indicate?

Final spots on the defensive line

Without pouring a ton of resources into the defensive line this offseason as some were expecting, the Falcons have a really interesting group of players to sort through this weekend. The relatively smaller additions of Tyeler Davison and Adrian Clayborn could prove huge this year, as both players have had excellent preseasons. Vic Beasley notched a sack against the Jets and Takk McKinley snagged a fumble recover against the Redskins, a positive sign for both players entering 2019. But further down the depth chart players like Deadrin Senat, Justin Zimmer and Chris Odom are in the midst of a really fun battle for a role with this club. They'll be the guys to watch Thursday.

A photo-finish at running back

Beginning to end, the running back battle has been the most competitive and fun of the preseason. Brian Hill's early sprint out of the gates has cooled a bit of late as Qadree Ollison has gotten more comfortable and put together solid back-to-back performances. Given that it appears the return role belongs to Kenjon Barner, any major cuts at running back will likely be between Ollison and Hill. Both are deserving of a spot on this roster, and that may well end up being the case, but tonight may leave a lasting impression.

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