Many of the issues for the Falcons in Friday's preseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars came from issues on third down on both sides of the ball. Atlanta converted only three third downs on offense and allowed Jacksonville almost a 50 percent conversion rate on the same down.
Head coach Mike Smith said Sunday morning the problems on third down was the dominant takeaway for him and his coaching staff.
"It was real evident that we weren't very good in third-and-long," he said. "We worked our tail off to get guys in third-and-long and we had 10 situations where we were in third-and-10 or third-and-8 plus. We weren't as efficient as we needed to be, for a number of reasons."
Safety William Moore said he felt some of the issues came from simple miscommunications on defense. He didn't express concern that the improvements would come swiftly.
A lack of a game plan for the opponent also contributed. Smith said they were trying to play defenses they wanted to run, not out of a reaction to what was happening on the field. They wanted to see how players responded to what was called, gauging their level of engagement and understanding with the playbook. In real-game situations, he felt the outcomes would have been a little different.
Teams don't game plan for opponents during the preseason.
"If we were game planning if it would have been a different situation," he said.
On offense, the Falcons' inability to convert certain third-down situations contributed to some of the stalls they experienced on Friday.
"We weren't very good in third-and-4 or less," he said. "When we have an advantage in those situations, we've got to convert. We were not efficient there. The five times that we were in third-and-4 or less, we did not convert on those situations."
The team did a lot of work on third down situations in practice and wide receiver Harry Douglas said that wasn't uncommon or a reaction to the second preseason game, but a better performance in that area will be needed.
"We work on third downs throughout the week, no matter what," he said. "Today, we emphasized it a lot. We've just got to make the plays on third down when we're there."
Roster Review:The preseason, according to Smith, is less about wins and losses and more about individual evaluations. Friday's game was no different and Smith was pleased with some of what he saw in individual performances. The coach said they wanted to "stress" some of the players by increasing their snaps and seeing how they responded.
One of the key battles in camp, the nickelback position between Chris Owens and Dominique Franks, took another step during the game. Smith said Franks was one of the key players they were stressing.
"He handled some things very well," Smith said. "It's a learning experience. In Week 1, he didn't get that many exposures. This week he did. He showed up on the stats chart."
In regards to who has the edge in the race, Smith said it's still wide open, as is the battle for right guard between Mike Johnson and Garrett Reynolds. Reynolds was credited with the start Friday.
One player Smith singled out when asked about his staff's film review was rookie lineman Andrew Jackson. Jackson has drawn praise from the head coach on more than one occassion during the preseason.
"I thought one of our young offensive linemen, Andrew Jackson, improved from Week 1 to Week 2," he said. "That's a positive. That was the big thing we were looking for, individual improvement across the board from Week 1 to Week 2. "
Ray Edwards Update:Even though defensive end Ray Edwards was held out of Friday's game, his progress from an offseason surgery has been positive.
Smith continues to sound encouraged by Edwards' health and Edwards has been spending more time on the practice field getting reps in the last week. The coach would not yet commit to an answer on Edwards' availability for Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We'll continue to ramp him up as the week goes on," he said. "He's taking more and more snaps and we'll make a decision as we get toward the end of the week."