1. Injury Update: The Falcons have managed to stay relatively healthy during training camp this year, but in the last few days, they've experienced some bruises. On Monday the Falcons lost Sean Weatherspoon and Julio Jones during practice and on Tuesday morning the team announced both would be out for the preseason opener. During Tuesday's practice, starting right tackle Mike Johnson went down with an injury and was taken off the field. After practice, head coach Mike Smith didn't have much information to share and said he didn't want to speculate on the nature of Johnson's injury: "Mike Johnson left the field and I cannot give you an update right now. I don't know the extent of the injury but like we did today, this morning, when we have concrete information, we will give concrete information out to you guys."
2. Line Options: Football is in fact a contact sport so injuries can't come as a surprise and they can't be used as excuses either. Smith said on Tuesday that he's intrigued by some of his options along the offensive line this year, especially some of the young offensive tackles they brought in. Two in particular, Ryan Schraeder and Terren Jones, could be critical if Johnson's injury is serious. They're both 6-foot-7 and weight at least 300 pounds and Smith shared their size and athleticism are two things they're excited about. Smith said the final selections along the line are still up for grabs as they try to put together a line that is versatile: "We're trying to put together a 53-man roster that has nine offensive linemen that gives us a lot of flexibility."
Smith added that Thursday's game would be mostly about evaluating their young players and there was a plan in place for how long starters would play.
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3. Young D-Line: This year signals the beginning of a youth movement for the Falcons along the defensive line, especially at end. Many of the young ends are getting an opportunity to play valuable snaps for the defense this year, headlined by Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman. Both young players had a strong day on Tuesday going against Cincinnati's second-string offense. Massaquoi and Goodman were applying pressure routinely to the QB and during one two-minute drill situation, Massaquoi was credited with two sacks and Goodman added another. This bodes well for the Falcons as those two players are competing to be the primary backups to Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann.
4. The Jackson Attack: It continues to be very clear the Falcons intend to use Steven Jackson as much more than just a running back who carries the ball. Although he's a talented runner, Jackson is equally good at catching passes. During practices the Falcons have positioned Jackson all over the line of scrimmage and at one point Tuesday during drills, the Falcons threw to Jackson on two straight plays on opposite sides of the field. After practice Jackson said he thinks the offense is designed to get him one-on-one with linebackers because of the heavy coverage opposing defenses are expected to use against Atlanta's receiving targets. Jackson's role in Atlanta gives the running back memories of his early days as a true dual-threat back: "It reminds me of my younger years in St. Louis when I was used more as a receiver out of the backfield. It allows me to use more tools in the shed that I have and possess. It allows me to work on things I haven't done in a number of years."
5. Dalton On Defense: You never expect to hear an opposing quarterback say anything overly negative about an opponent, certainly an opponent's defense and that is true in the case of Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. The third-year quarterback did however provide a nice opposing view of the Falcons' defense from what he saw over the last two days of the combined practices: "They did a good job of disguising coverage, showing one thing and going back to something else. They've got guys that have been around for a while so they're definitely a good defense."
Dalton added an assessment of the rookie corners for the Falcons, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, saying the two rookies seemed to know what was going on around them on the practice field.