Falcons unlikely to play starters or key reserves this week
By GEORGE HENRY
Aug. 27, 2018
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons are mostly healthy and don't want to risk getting an important player injured when they close out the preseason this week.
Coach Dan Quinn wouldn't say so for certain, but it's unlikely the Falcons will play any starters or key backups Thursday against Miami. The depth chart is nearly full, so Quinn and his staff will use the exhibition to evaluate the last available spots on the 53-man roster.
"There will be some who are competing to be practice squad and developmental and some still battling for the 53," Quinn said Monday. "The goal is also if it's not here, it's somewhere, so those guys can put out tapes to get other opportunities."
Atlanta opens the regular season Sept. 6 at Philadelphia, the defending Super Bowl champion that knocked the favored Falcons out of the playoffs seven months ago. Quinn wants to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
Star receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman have been held out of all the preseason games for precautionary reasons given their injury histories, but neither has missed practice.
Linebacker Deion Jones, cornerback Desmond Trufant, and free safety Ricardo Allen were nicked up in earlier exhibitions and didn't dress for last week's preseason loss at Jacksonville.
Quinn sees plenty of areas for the Falcons to clean up. Against the Jaguars, the first-team offense failed to convert its five chances on third down and allowed Matt Ryan to get sacked twice.
The first-team defense wasn't stout enough against the run and gave up Leonard Fournette's 21-yard score.
"I thought in this game there were too many leaky yards on some of the runs," Quinn said. "They had a long touchdown run. Those two explosive runs were uncomfortable for those guys."
Quinn likes what he's seen from running back Tevin Coleman in the preseason. The No. 2 running back has worked exclusively with the starters and is averaging 5.4 yards on 18 runs. Quinn also was pleased that the defense looked sharp on the opening drive when cornerback Robert Alford tipped the ball on strong safety Keanu Neal's interception.
Though the third- and fourth-stringers will take most of the snaps when the Falcons (0-3) face Miami (0-3), Quinn still wants his front-line players to improve.
He called out rookie receiver Calvin Ridley in a team film session Monday after the first-round draft pick dropped two passes with the ball in his hands and no contact from the Jaguars.
"Nobody escapes that," Quinn said. "That's part of the process we go through to say, 'Hey, man, we expect you to own that moment.' It wasn't just him. There were other people."
Quinn used the film session as a teaching moment for Ridley, who likely won't play this week, and a reminder that the Falcons led the NFL in drops last season.
"I think to be a true team, you have to show all the examples — the one where he really lights 'em up good and the ones that he had a drop," Quinn said.
"Probably his first taste. Last week he was on his way to becoming the next rookie Pro Bowl receiver and then he had a drop. Welcome to the NFL.
"He's a really detailed and prideful guy. There's an intensity he brings in practice is past maybe his age. I really respect that part of his game. As mistakes happen, which they're going to, I generally want to see how a guy rebounds."