The Atlanta Falcons were back at the Branch this week preparing for their upcoming game against the Dolphins. The team is on the road again on Saturday in the third week of the 2015 preseason.
1. Who are a couple depth players you'll be watching against Miami?
ANDREW HIRSH: I'd like to see Tevin Coleman get his Falcons career off to a good start. The running back competition was supposed to be intense throughout training camp, but hamstring-related injuries have stalled the drama. A noteworthy performance in Miami could give Coleman a leg up over Devonta Freeman and move him away from "depth" status.
I'm also curious to see how T.J. Yates responds to the added competition at quarterback. Rex Grossman won't suit up until the Ravens game, so now is the time for him to prove his worth.
KELSEY CONWAY: First and foremost, with cuts looming, the time that the third and fourth string players get Saturday will be extremely valuable, so I am looking forward to the level of play across the board. With that being said, I will be watching Nick Williams on offense and Stansly Maponga on defense. Dan Quinn complimented Williams multiple times this week and with Roddy White's injury keeping him out the remainder of the preseason, it looks like Williams will see more work and is definitely on the radar. On the other side of the ball, I want to pay particular attention to Maponga as he recorded a sack in both preseason games.
JAY ADAMS: Stansly Maponga is definitely a player I'll be keeping a keen eye on the rest of the preseason. He has received a ton of playing time this preseason and I think it's because the coaching staff wants to get a ton of tape on him. There's clearly something there that the coaches like because Dan Quinn spent a good amount of one-on-one time teaching him during training camp. The improvement is starting to show on the field as he's already got a fumble recovery from Week 1 and a strip-sack from Week 2. He's proving to be a player worth watching when it comes to depth, so I'll be interested in seeing if he gets much time during the all-important first half of this weekend's game and how he fares against Miami's ones.
2. Other than maintaining health, what are you hoping the team accomplishes on Saturday?
AH: I want the defense build on what it's accomplished so far. Richard Smith's unit impressed versus Tennessee and New York, but the starters didn't exactly get much playing time. That will change in Miami. How will the guys, particularly the newcomers, respond to added reps? If they keep bringing the heat and avoid big mistakes, it'll go a long way towards convincing fans the new system can work in Atlanta.
Moreover, I want to see them contain Ndamukong Suh: arguably the NFL's best defensive tackle. He'll give Atlanta's interior offensive lineman—Joe Hawley, in particular—one of the best preseason tests imaginable. That's what you want this time of year.
KC: I want to see both the offensive and defensive lines control the line of scrimmage. They are both facing solid groups and will be tested early in this game. Miami's defensive line has three players that have the ability to post double digit sacks this season, so this will be a good test for the Falcons' offensive line. The Falcons' defensive line has looked impressive so far, and I hope to see the same level of intensity for a longer period of time
JA: Proof of sustainability. The first-team units on both sides of the ball have been outstanding during two preseason games. That said, there have only been a handful of plays each side has participated in as a full first-team unit. They've brought the fast-and-physical style Quinn has been preaching, but how well does that intensity sustain into the second quarter and perhaps beyond? That's what I want to see: A sustained, high-intensity effort that lasts beyond the first few drives. The team will likely have a chance to do that Saturday.
3. Over/under: Three sacks for the Falcons this week.
AH: I'll take the over. Ryan Tannehill is a fairly mobile QB, but Atlanta's pass rush looked solid throughout camp and the first half of preseason. The Falcons have averaged 2.5 sacks through two exhibition games, and with the starters poised to see more action, four is not a stretch.
KC: I think the Falcons will have exactly three sacks. I think that Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn and Stansly Maponga will each get their own as the Falcons' defensive line continues to bring the heat.
JA: I'm taking the over just because I really like what I've seen from the different pass rush combinations we've seen through two preseason games. It only stands to reason that with more snaps from the first team defense could come more sacks. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.