Welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons are gearing up for the final preseason game – a matchup against the Dolphins at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday night – and then all eyes are on the Eagles. In the meantime, you've got plenty of questions – so let's get right to them. Just remember, all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.
And away we go.
Russ from Missoula, MT
Hello! Like so many others, I really enjoy reading your perspective and opinions regarding the team. One of the things you've mentioned on several occasions is how the preseason record doesn't matter, and that the staff is just looking at specific players, or working on specific formations, etc. I guess my concern with the 0-3 start to the preseason would be that, I assume our opponents are doing the same thing, with the difference being they are coming out with wins. Honestly, I don't put much stock into preseason scores, but I wonder if there is anything into the fact that we aren't getting any W's at all. The question would be, do you think there is any importance in getting a win in this final game leading into the season as a nice confidence boost or gain a little momentum. Wow, that was a lot! Thanks for sticking with it ...
Matt: Hi, Russ. I always enjoy hearing from Falcons fans from around the great state of Georgia, but really get a kick out of hearing from you die-hards from around the country (and the world, for that matter). Yes, I recently wrote a column – after the first preseason game, a 17-0 loss to the Jets – explaining that the outcomes of preseason games are meaningless. And they really are, in my opinion. Now, I could go back and count all of the teams who either finished 0-4 or 1-3 in the preseason and went on to the playoffs, but I'll just use the 2014 NFC East standings as a classic example as to why those records don't matter. The Giants went 5-0 and then went 6-10 in the regular season. The Redskins went 3-1, then managed just four wins during the regular season. Then the Cowboys finished 0-4 in preseason games before finishing 12-4 and coming within a catch of advancing to the NFC title game. And for what it's worth, the Falcons finished 0-4 last preseason and 3-1 in 2016 – making the postseason both years.
Chris from Chino Hills, CA
Hey Beek. Really appreciate your comments and insight. Thanks. Question involved new helmet rule, which I fear will dramatically change all of football – not in a good way – if called as it is in the preseason and if the rule remains as written. Perfect example is our Jaguar game. Damontae Kazee made a great hit with his shoulder leading causing a fumble. Rather than getting the turnover, the Jaguars get 15 more yards. Similarly, on the goal line, how can any runner go low and try to score? If they hit a leg that is a penalty? Wondering the skinny from what you hear. The coaches are saying the right things, but your thoughts? Am I paranoid? Prior spearing was obvious and if you see it you know it.
Matt: Hey, Chris. I, like a lot of people watching the preseason games, see the inconsistencies in how they're calling these penalties. I think it's really important to improve the safety of the game – and I want to see the ugly spearing and helmet-to-helmet hit banned from the game. So, I want to make that much clear. I also think it's important to remember that the officials are out there trying to enforce this new rule for the first time as well. There are going to be some bumps and hiccups along the way – that's to be expected with the implantation of any new rule, as frustrating as some of the calls have been. That all said, I'm personally hoping the call is made when it's blatantly obvious there's a foul being committed and that the officials use their best judgment when it comes to refraining from throwing the flag on those not-so-obvious calls. I'm not as concerned about it as some people are, to be honest, Chris. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic here, but I think the league will get this right once the regular season begins. In the end, it's about the players' safety and eliminating senseless injuries. And I'm always for that.
Jerry from Statesboro, GA
Hey, Beek. You're right, the Beekers are ready for Philadelphia. However, the coaches still have some tough decisions to make as far as the roster is concerned. I want to give out a few preseason Falcons awards: Most Improved Award: Damonte Kazee. Kazee has been absolute Krazee this preseason. Pleasant Surprise Award (three-way tie): Foye Oluokun, Jonathan Celestin and Eric Saubert. These guys have shown that they deserve to play. Their names have been called more than any other player with the exception of Kazee this preseason. Dark Horse Award (three-way tie): Justin Zimmer, Garrison Smith, Jon Cunningham. These guys have shown flashes of run stuffing and pushing the pocket. And finally, the Underwhelmed Awards: Isaiah Oliver. Now, before you say anything, no it's not fair to give him this award because he's just a rookie. Duke Riley was the front-runner for this award, but he has turned it around. During his performance in the Jaguars game, Oliver looked like a deer in headlights. He played slow and unsure of himself. Hang in there Oliver, you'll get it. Even though we are winless in the preseason, I like the fight our team has. The Beekers must understand that the preseason is not designed to win but designed to evaluate. My question is going into the last preseason game, who are YOUR picks to make the practice squad as OL, DL, and LB?
Matt: I agree with a lot of you picks there, Jerry. And you're right about the real purpose of the preseason – it's to evaluate all of these young and unproven players, including all of the players on other teams who might be cut for various reasons once the rosters are trimmed to 53 players come Sept. 1. As far as players that I'm watching or think might end up on the practice squad, I'll go with (in no specific order) Justin Zimmer, Jonathan Celestin, Devin Gray, Richard Jarvis, Kurt Benkert and Matt Gono.
Ruben from Marion, OH
Hey Beek. This is only my second time writing in, but I've been reading since you started STFB last year and have always loved it. I have a couple of statements rather than questions. Our third preseason game against the Jags was the first live action I've gotten to see my team play this year. But watching Damontae Kazee out there flying around on defense was awesome. That man was everywhere. I explicitly loved the four or five straight plays near the end of the first quarter right after he forced the fumble from Marqise Lee. He came close to picking off Blake Bortles two or three plays in a row. But also, I'm curious to see how all the fans react to the "bad play" of the offense. Before they overreact, they need to realize that not having Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman were a major factor. That's two huge dimensions of our game that haven't been there all preseason. I can't wait for September 6th. RISEUP Falcons nation.
Matt: Thanks for being a loyal reader of SFTB, Ruben. The love is mutual. You readers are awesome. I'll say this much about Damontae Kazee – I've been a huge fan of his since last season and he's been terrific all offseason and throughout the preseason, as you noted. Falcons coach Dan Quinn has said that they have different packages on defense where Kazee is out there, but I think they're going to have to find more ways to get him on the field more. He's a playmaker back there – and those guys are game-changers. That's huge, and he's been a pleasant surprise. Kudos, also, to the Falcons scouting department – they're the men who go out and find these guys. Remember, Kazee was a fifth-round pick (149th overall selection) out of San Diego State in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Nicholas from Augusta, GA
After the way Damontae Kazee has been playing, do you think Ricardo Allen may be a little nervous? Love what you do Beek! Rise up!
Matt: I get what you're saying and where you're going with this, but I don't think Ricardo Allen is nervous at all, Nicholas. Allen has taken Kazee under his wing and I think he's probably happy for him, if anything. Kazee's success will only make this defense better, and that's a good thing. For now, I don't think anyone's job is in jeopardy. Falcons fans should just hope Kazee's stellar play continues into the regular season.
Fran from Santa Cruz, CA
When the Falcons win and play in their own Super Bowl, will that be a first? Has any team ever won in their own Super Bowl?
Matt: Hey, Fran. To clarify what you're asking, no team has ever advanced to a Super Bowl that was played in their home stadium. So, yes, it would be a first if the Falcons pulled it off this season. I love your confidence, and I'm not surprised to read your email this morning. A lot of Falcons write me all the time and they're like you – expecting to play and win Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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