The Falcons and Jaguars meet for the final game of the preseason on Thursday night. The fourth preseason game is typically a game when starters don't play much and backups see the majority of their playing time in the preseason. It's a final glimpse at what a player is capable of and goes a long way toward helping the coaches determine the final spots on their roster. Falcons head coach Mike Smith has said starters may play for a while and his history shows this to be true. Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said his starters will likely play the first quarter before giving way to the backups. Final roster cuts will be made following the game to meet the NFL's Friday afternoon deadline.
Falcons Interior O-line vs. Jags interior D-line
If there's a position the Jags are deep at it's defensive tackle. Their depth there means a good opportunity for Atlanta's guards and centers to face and perform against stiff competition. Jacksonville DTs Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton will play for a while in the first quarter and centers Todd McClure and Joe Hawley will give Atlanta's coaching staff one final chance to see their top two center candidates hold up inside. While Justin Blalock is firmly entrenched at left guard, right guard is open right now with the battle between Garrett Reynolds and Peter Konz coming down to the wire. Both guards will have their work cut out for them against Alualu and Knighton as well as Jacksonville's other DT depth.
Falcons CBs vs. Justin Blackmon
In Blackmon's last preseason game, he had four catches for 72 yards. The rookie receiver will need to continue to get playing time as he prepares for the regular season after getting a late start. The big and physical receiver will pose a nice challenge for Atlanta's cornerback trio of Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson, should they suit up for the game. With a number of receivers in the NFC South that compare favorably to Blackmon, Thursday's game will be a nice primer for the corners even if they don't play very long. Assuming Blackmon plays into the second quarter, a player like Dominique Franks will face a strong test.
Falcons WR depth vs. Jags CB depth
Injuries to Jacksonville's top corners have given some of their younger corners more playing time during the preseason. The final wide receivers spots for Atlanta are still wide open and there should be some good battles by the likes of Atlanta's Drew Davis, Kevin Cone and Tim Toone against the Jaguars' William Middleton and Kevin Rutland.
Falcons RB and FB depth vs. Jags LB depth
Atlanta's running backs Antone Smith and Dimitri Nance will use the final preseason game to help the coaches determine who the final RB on the roster will be. There's also still a battle at FB between Mike Cox and Lousaka Polite. Both figure to get plenty of playing time to aid in the final decision. Mularkey has identified linebacker as a position with a strong battle for roster spots for his Jaguars and they'll be the primary competition for Atlanta's stable of backs. The run game against the run defense will be a fun competition to watch on Thursday.