MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Quarterback Feleipe Franks was supposed to enter Saturday's preseason game against Miami in the second half. Instead, he came in with but a few seconds notice.
The undrafted rookie was thrust into action after AJ McCarron suffered a right knee injury and played the remainder of the game as the Falcons only healthy, active quarterback.
"With what happened with AJ, it's very unfortunate but that's the life of the backup quarterback," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "That's the situation that happens a lot of times. He has to be ready to go, to be prepared."
Franks was well prepared to take over in a pinch, and looked more comfortable running the show than he did a week ago against Tennessee. His performance wasn't all positive, but he had both good moments and bad.
He was 4-for-9 for 49 yards and an interception that was nearly a pick six. He also had three carries for 32 yards, including a 20-yarder during his first series showing great elusiveness. He orchestrated two touchdown drives and nearly had another in the second quarter but had a sure TD pass dropped and eventually turned it over on downs.
While he has been inefficient throwing the ball, Franks is clearly improving each week and developing well with this coaching staff.
"Feleipe, to me, has had the biggest growth," Smith said. "For him to come into these last two games and play, you can't replicate that in practice. To develop quarterbacks, you've got to play them. There's no way around it. That was our philosophy going into these two games."
The tough question that Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot must answer is this: Is Franks ready to be Matt Ryan's backup quarterback during the regular season? They must be very comfortable with the proposition.
If worst fears are realized, McCarron could be done for the year. The Falcons will likely sign another quarterback even if McCarron's out a shorter stretch, and that person would have approximately three weeks to learn the offense before the regular season. That's not ideal, but it's enough time to get somewhat up to speed before the games start to count.
While McCarron and Franks were in a position battle of sorts, McCarron was the odds-on favorite to be Ryan's backup. Franks could've then developed for a year on the practice squad. McCarron's injury changes all that, and leaves one to wonder if Franks ready for that No. 2 spot right now?
He'll have to continue to inspire confidence that he can do that job.
There's no doubt Franks has gotten better. Even he can sense that from his time in Atlanta, but also recognizes there's more work to be done.
"I'm overcritical. I'm hard on myself and I try to be perfect in everything that I do in a practice or game," Franks said. "When I throw a pick, I'm pissed. At the same time, I'm always continuing to learn and continuing to work hard. … I feel like I'm coming along. I'm getting more and more comfortable in the offense. I have a long way to go, and they're doing a great job of coaching me. I'm trying to listen, be a sponge and soak it all up and perform when I'm called upon."
Franks believes he'll be ready for the No. 2 job, a position where the Falcons hope he'll never play but always he has to ready in case something goes wrong with Ryan.
"I have full confidence in myself," Franks said. "I feel like I'm starting to gain confidence in the group around me. I'm just going to put my head down and go to work. That's all it's about, learning from your mistakes. That's mindset with just about anything. I do feel like I have the capability to do that job."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins in the second preseason game of 2021.