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Young players impress during Friday Night Lights


FLOWERY BRANCH, GA — Friday Night Lights provided the fans with a chance to see some live, hard-hitting action for the first time in the preseason.

For some players, however, it was a chance to show that they belong on the roster.

Led by rookie wide receiver Kerry Meier and running backs Dimitri Nance and Antone Smith, the Falcons' offense was able to pull out a win by a 39-22 margin in head coach Mike Smith's unique scoring system for scrimmages.

Meier, a fifth-round pick from the 2010 draft, had two big catches — his first was nearly a 30-yard pickup with a sizable run after the catch.

"It's just kind of how that worked out," Meier said of the play. "I wasn't the primary receiver on that read, but I ended up fooling the defense how they played it. It was kind of a breakdown by the defense, and the quarterback did a nice job of finding me open."

Nance, a rookie free agent pickup, and Antone Smith, a second-year player trying to add himself to an NFL roster, were easily the stars of the night. Two completely different backs in playing style, Nance showed off his power running abilities while Antone Smith found big holes and displayed his speed in the open field.

Nance looked at Friday Night Lights as his opportunity to turn some heads.

"I thought this was a real good chance to show the coaching staff because this is really the first time we started tackling," the former Arizona State running back said. "This showed my physical side of my game, and I think I showed a lot today."

While the offense was able to pull out the win in Mike Smith's system of scoring that assigns point values to different achievements during a game, it was the defense that started out quickly.

Defensive end John Abraham had a sack in his limited playing time, Trey Lewis probably had the hit of the night as he busted up a run in the backfield and rookie Corey Peters was consistently causing headaches and the line of scrimmage.

"I thought Corey did a nice job," Mike Smith said. "I thought all of our rookies (did good), for their first time of actually playing the game of football (in the NFL) — and that's what they did was play the game of football. All the stuff we've done up until this point is situational things that we're controlling. The only thing that wasn't live tonight was the quarterbacks, so it was nice to see these guys go out there and compete."

Offensively, rookie tight end Michael Palmer provided a big target for Falcons quarterbacks and was utilized throughout the game. Nance and Antone Smith scored the only touchdowns of the scrimmage — Antone Smith's on a 30-yard screen pass and Nance's on a 5-yard run.

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