Though the Falcons lost Friday night's preseason game to the Miami Dolphins 28-23, a lot of positives emerged. In the locker room, talk of wide receiver Julio Jones' night was dominant. Some of the other standouts such as Dominique Franks and Rafael Bush were pleased with some of the things they accomplished.
Head coach Mike Smith offered a glowing review of rookie Julio Jones' night: "I think Julio got indoctrinated into what the NFL is about and in terms of the plays he made, I think they were outstanding. I think all three touches were for first downs. He showed some skills that we saw when he was playing at the University of Alabama, and we'll watch the tape and I think we'll find somethings that we've got to correct. We all made mistakes, starting with me in terms of the game management and all of that. I really thought Julio did some good things." *
Jones didn't have a lot to say to the media after the game, sharing that he felt the work with Matt Ryan in the offseason was highly helpful. He gave a concise description of how Ryan managed the receiver's role in the offense: "Well Matt runs our offense when we're out there on the field. He just plays the best matchup." *
Ryan's first touchdown of the preseason was a 20-yard connection to receiver Harry Douglas, who ended the night as the team's leading receiver with three catches for 47 yards. Ryan feels Douglas' role in the offense, as seen tonight, can help with the much-discussed explosion: "Harry ran a great route. That was the key there. He kept his speed up towards the top of the route and then broke towards the post. He really made a good catch in between two guys. That's a good sign for us. If Harry can continue to work on what he's done the past two years and build from that, it's really going to be beneficial for us." *
Douglas feels being an explosive offense means more than just huge plays with big gains. He felt like the Falcons showed Friday night what they can do turning small positives into bigger pluses: "It's really big. You notice the great teams in the NFL, they make a lot of explosive plays. It doesn't necessarily have to be bombs down the field, it can be short passes and short runs that we block for the running back down field that become big plays. I know Julio had a big play. It was a little four or five-yard drag route that he turned up field for a big gain." *
Defensive end John Abraham was in the right place at the right time to snag an interception in the first quarter that led to Atlanta's first touchdown. He was pleased with how the first-team did and thinks some of the younger players made strides Friday night: "I think we looked good. I wish we could've gotten a couple more plays, but that's just being a competitor. I think we played well as a defense. I want to see a little more out of the younger guys, but I think they're growing and helping our defense out a lot." *
Cornerback Dominique Franks got in a lot of work in a lot of ways against the Dolphins. He gained live-action experience at the nickel cornerback position, as well as on the outside. He also returned punts in the second half, returning one for 44 yards and another for 33. Franks wouldn't take all the credit, giving a nod to the guys in front of him: "Great blocking. Those guys holding them up at the line of scrimmage and just giving me a free chance to catch the ball. Once I catch it, they set up the blocks. I've got to credit the blocking because if they're not out there there's no return. It's more than just me out there, it's ten other guys doing a great job blocking for me and helping me set up to have a good return." *
Rafael Bush is a safety by trade, but has spent some of training camp cross-training at the nickel corner position. He had a good night with three tackles and an interception that came on a head's-up play. Following rookie corner Darrin Walls in coverage, Bush caught the Walls' deflection for the pick. The safety by trade felt the night was a positive: "I'm trying to use my versatility to the best of my ability and try to get a little bit better feel for the nickel spot. The safety is pretty much normal to me, I can make all my calls and do the things necessary. I'm still trying to get a feel for the nickel and I think those reps showed value to me going into the next game."