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Five Things We Learned: Aug. 22

1. Cuts Coming: It's that time of year when decisions must be made and the ugly side of professional football begins to show its face. After Saturday's game against the Titans, the Falcons will begin to pare down the roster, dropping the number from 90 to 75. After the final preseason game in Week 4, the roster's final decisions will come, reducing the number to 53. Head coach Mike Smith said he has reminded all of his players that this is happening around the league and if their film is good enough, they'll get another shot somewhere. Still, the coach said this is the toughest time of the year: "On Sunday we'll be making decisions about our roster. We'll be moving down from 90 to 75. Those are tough decisions. There are a bunch of guys that have worked extremely hard for us and have tried to prove themselves. It's tough in terms of the decision making process."

2. Resolution At Right Tackle? Second-year right tackle Lamar Holmes looks like he's winning the right tackle battle with two games to go. Saturday's game will be another big test for Holmes and if he does well, he will remain in the driver's seat. Ryan Schraeder could be in line for the top backup spot since he's been rotating between the left and right sides. Smith said Holmes will see a lot of action against the Titans: "Lamar is going to take the majority of the snaps with the first group, but we've got to be able to have guys that can play both on the right and left side. The way that the rotation is going to go, there's a chance that you'll see Schraeder in there at right tackle. ... Right now Lamar has done a very nice job. Each week he has gotten better."

3. Chemistry Is Key: The Falcons injected a lot of youth in the secondary this offseason, but with youth comes inexperience. However, they're still stocked with veterans at key positions and those veterans have been playing together for a while. Safety Thomas DeCoud said Thursday that the leaders in place will be able to make up for the lack of experience in the rookies that may be moving forward with them in the season: "I think the core of our guys that had a lot of experience and have played together are still here. William (Moore) and I have five years together. Asante (Samuel) has been in this league for a long time and brings a huge amount of experience to the game and it allows us to make plays because we have chemistry."

4. Extra Time For Bartu: Joplo Bartu is one of the surprise names of camp, but the way things are going, he's a name you're going to remember this year. A strong camp showing has expanded into the preseason games and the undrafted rookie linebacker looks in line to win a job somewhere. His pass coverage is a key asset to the linebacker crew and he's getting a shot to stay on the field. He's been working with Sean Weatherspoon as one of the two linebackers in the nickel defense during the past few practices with Stephen Nicholas out. Don't be surprised to see Bartu with the first-team defense in some passing situations against the Titans.

5. Jackson's Scouting Report: Falcons running back Steven Jackson's been around the block and so has Titans assistant defensive coach Gregg Williams. Williams' style of defense is known around the league for the creativity it fosters and the confusion it creates. Jackson said if Williams is putting his stamp on the Titans' defense, he has an idea of what to expect: "Their defense is very aggressive, fast flowing. With coach Williams now being on staff, I'm sure they're going to have some exotic looks. With him being at New Orleans, he's very familiar with this offense. I expect to have my head on a swivel, just checking for blitzes and making sure that (quarterback Matt Ryan) is protected."

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