The Falcons hit the road to South Beach for their first away game of the preseason. After practice this week the Falcons addressed the fact that this will be the first game they actually implement a game plan for an opponent.
Miami is in the midst of doing what Atlanta did back in 2008, putting a rookie in as the No. 1 quarterback. Atlanta will surely have Ryan Tannehill on the radar tonight, along with a few other key members of the Dolphins.
As the third game of the preseason is supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season, you can expect to see the Falcons starters out on the field for quite some time. Here’s what you need to watch for.
- Who plays better at left tackle: The biggest news of the offseason is now Will Svitek’s season-ending injury. Left tackle now becomes a huge liability if someone can’t step up in his stead. Sam Baker has not been able to live up to expectations for the Falcons, whether it’s been due to injury or not. He appears to be healthy, but defenders are still blowing by him at times. On the other hand you have Lamar Holmes, a rookie who was kept out of the majority of camp due to a foot injury. Holmes is going to get “significant playing time” tonight according to Mike Smith. We’ll see who, if either, can hold down Matt Ryan’s blindside.
- Nolan’s defense: Mike Nolan will be facing off against the team he coached last season, but surely he won’t hold anything back, even if he’s facing a rookie quarterback. The Falcons game plan for tonight has Tannehill and Reggie Bush as two of the main targets, so it will be interesting to see how well they contain both. In 13 games last season Matt Moore was sacked 36 times. Nolan’s blitzes may be too much for Miami to handle tonight.
- Dominique Davis, again: If you haven’t heard about this kid yet, you probably haven’t been watching much of the Falcons preseason. Davis is making a strong impression on fans, coaches, analysts and anyone who watches the backup quarterbacks play. Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson continue to look mediocre at best, and if Davis comes out firing on all cylinders again, it’s going to be tough for the Falcons to deny him a roster spot.
- Akeem Dent’s return: After suffering a concussion in the first week of preseason, Dent will be back starting at middle linebacker once again. The Falcons need him to stay healthy, but they also need to see he hasn’t been hurt by the missed playing time.
- Containing Reggie Bush: Let’s face it, the Dolphins don’t have many playmakers. When Ledegu Naanee and Davone Bess are you starting receivers, there’s reason for concern. Bush was a breakout player in 2011, and while there’s questions surrounding his ability to continue that same success, he’s always dangerous in the open field. The linebackers will be tested by his receiving game. Can the Falcons contain him?
- Balanced offense: Last week we saw Matt Ryan throw the ball constantly. That’s not going to happen every week. The Falcons need to establish the run game at some point. Ryan, as talented as he is, needs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers to help take some of the pressure off. Quizz played well in the first two games, but Turner has yet to show up this preseason. Keep in mind that Miami ranked third overall in rush yards allowed per game last year. This will be a test for Atlanta.