The Falcons were back in pads on Monday to practice with the Tennessee Titans for the ninth practice of 2014 XFINITY Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.
For the second-consecutive week, the Atlanta Falcons face an opponent they previously battled in a combine practice, during the course of their 2014 XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp. On Saturday, the Tennessee Titans invade the Georgia Dome for a Week 3 matchup with the Falcons, with each team looking for its second win of the preseason.
Top Matchup: Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs Titans S Bernard Pollard
Matt Ryan knows he'll get at least the first half of Saturday's game to help his team play (in his words) "the way we're capable of," and rebounding from the Week 2 trip in Houston. A full practice week later, Ryan is anxious to get back on the field for the regular-season tune-up. "I think it's a really good opportunity for us to play a sustained number of plays and to get out there and get into a rhythm, heading into the regular season," Ryan said.
Headlining the Titans defense, in his second year with the team, is Bernard Pollard, who served as a team captain in 2013, when he started all 16 games at safety. Pollard recorded a team-high 142 tackles and ranked second on the squad with three interceptions last season. Known for his physicality and emotional play on the field, Matty Ice and company will look to ace the tough test that is a Bernard Pollard-led Titans defense.
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons DE Malliciah Goodman
It's year two for Malliciah Goodman, a towering defensive end, who showed great potential in his rookie season. Entering 2014, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan says Goodman is a guy you have to keep your eyes on, thanks in part to his huge frame, including long arms and 11-inch hands. Under new defensive line coach Bryan Cox, Goodman has thrived in practice and plans to execute the rushes he's been perfecting while facing a stout Titans offensive line.
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons LT Jake Matthews
It's tough not to be "on the radar" when you're the sixth-overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, but Falcons rookie tackle Jake Matthews has never flinched under the spotlight. Moving this week from right tackle to left tackle, following the season-ending knee injury to Falcons T Sam Baker, the focus will be on how Matthews handles protecting Matt Ryan's blind side. Following a full week of practice in the left tackle spot, where he played his entire senior year at Texas A&M in 2013, I see Matthews shining in the role, as do many others.
Number of the Game: 344
The Tennessee Titans QBs, Jake Locker and rookie Zach Mettenberger, combined for 344 passing yards (and three TDs) in last week's preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Falcons head coach Mike Smith said there are positions still up for grabs in the team's secondary, which will be tested by the potentially high-scoring Titans offense. Saturday's matchup should be a prime opportunity for guys to try and earn a starting role or at the very least, move up the depth chart and help secure a spot on the team.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Play Beyond Potential: Ryan broke down the team huddle last week, essentially saying that it's time to go out and show what we're really made of. Every Falcons fan knows that this team is loaded with talent and now in the final dress rehearsal, before the regular season, it's time for the team not just to play up to its potential, but to rise above it, entering a new week with great momentum.
2. Reduce the Penalties:While it hasn't just been the Atlanta Falcons flagged for a bunch of penalties in the preseason, instead a high rate of yellow laundry across the league, the hometown team will look to clean up its miscues to prevent yards from being taken away and points from being scored. A hot word used around the Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch is "discipline"; if the team takes the lessons it learned in the film room this week, and on the practice field, employing them in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, a second preseason win will be well within reach.
3. Improve in All Three Phases:The team's offense, defense and special teams units view Saturday's game as an opportunity to give their fans a better idea of the true Falcons team they're going to see each and every game in the 2014 season. You're only remembered by your last outing, which is why the Falcons have been motivated to end this week with a performance that not only raises eyebrows, but also expectations for what has the potential to be a remarkable turnaround season.
For behind-the-scenes coverage of the Week 3 matchup against the Titans, follow me on Twitter, @FalconsRFerrin.