On the offensive side of the ball I was impressed with Dominique Davis’ ability to elude and escape defenders in the pocket. His decision making has continued to improve from week to week, despite the fact he did throw an INT in this game. It’s important to note that Davis had a lot of plays where he pressured and had a defender bearing down on him and hung in the pocket to make a throw. While those throws for the most part weren’t very accurate, it shows he’s tough and willing to take a hit and deliver the ball. His accuracy can improve and you could see him throwing the ball from different arm angles to avoid deflections and squeeze the ball through tight windows at the line of scrimmage (LOS). The accuracy wasn’t quite there but it will come with more reps and practice, the same is true for his touch on the ball. When Davis had a clean pocket and was able to go through his progressions he consistently delivered strikes to his WRs in the intermediate-deep ranges of the field which is great to see. Davis had a pretty solid day despite what the box score would lead you to believe.
RB Josh Vaughan who was a surprise addition to the 53 man roster (Atlanta has decided to carry 5 RBs into week one) had some very impressive runs. His patience and vision set him apart from the rest of the running backs that took the field for Atlanta. He made his impact felt early when he took a dive play through the left side and outraced the Jaguar defenders for a 60+ yard TD. Vaughan has very good long speed for being such a big back and also has a good burst. Vaughan put his size and quickness to work as he side stepped defenders and ran through arm tackles for extra yardage. He had a play later in the game where he drug a Jaguar defender for four extra yards.
The other player to highlight on the offense is Terren Jones. The rookie tackle was the surprise addition to the 53 man for most, but he put his skill set on display early as he had the key block at the second level to spring Vaughan on his long touchdown run. Furthermore, he did an outstanding job throughout the night of sealing off his man from the running lane and getting to the second level and establishing blocks on the linebackers. He also flashed ability in pass protection. He has good feet for being a huge LT and did a good job of keeping leverage. His kick slide still needs some work, but he is oozing with potential at the LT position.
On the defensive side of the ball several players stood out. The first of those being Jonathan Massaquoi. Massaquoi was giving the Jacksonville tackles issues all day as he did a good job of winning the edge and pushing them back with his bull rush. Massaquoi also seemed to have the best hand usage of all the DEs on the field tonight. Massaquoi showed the patience to stay home and protect his edge and even caught Jags QB Matt Scott for a strip sack on a naked bootleg to his side. Massaquoi would recover the fumble and walk into the end zone. He once again showed his patience and stayed home on the edge and caught Denard Robinson trying to cut back across formation for extra yardage and brought him down for a very short gain. Massaquoi has looked very promising throughout the preseason and has applied pressure in every preseason game. It will be interesting to see how Atlanta uses him this year with Kroy Biermann moving back and forth between SLB and DE.
The second player that stood out was Paul Worrilow, who also made the 53 man roster. Worrilow did a fantastic job with his run fills and was in on quite a few tackles throughout the night. Worrilow seemed to be more confident in attacking downhill in this game and that is to be expected as he gets more reps and gets more and more accustomed to the speed of the NFL game. What I was most impressed with was Worrilow’s ability to sniff out screen plays. He sniffed out three different screen plays, showcasing his play recognition and awareness, two very important traits for an NFL MLB. One area where Worrilow struggled was making the tackle on said screen play, he let the RB/WR slip out of his grasp quite a bit, but ultimately did enough to slow the play down and prevent large gains. However, Worrilow must do a better job of bringing the ball carrier down when he gets the chance in the open field. Worrilow also did a solid job in coverage, his zone drops were pretty good and he’s starting to become more and more comfortable there and he did a great job of sticking with Denard Robinson out of the backfield the few times he got matched up on him. Worrilow is showing a lot of upside and has he gets accustomed to the speed of the game and his instincts start to adjust to the NFL level he could become a very good linebacker for the Falcons.
The final player that stood out to me while I was watching the defense was Dominique Franks. Franks made several good plays on the ball in zone defense where he was able to read and react to the QB. The first was on a quick screen where he was able to work his way up field, despite being blocked and knock down the screen pass with one hand. He also had another play in zone where he broke on an underneath crossing route and broke up a pass. In man coverage, Franks looked a bit lost and gave up a touchdown on a corner route to the back of the end zone. Franks looks much more comfortable in zone coverage where he is able to read the QB and react accordingly. Given that ATL doesn’t have many safeties that excel in coverage backing up Decoud and Moore it’s not beyond reason to think that Franks could see some snaps at safety in case of injury. This happened in 2012 and Franks was inserted into the game and played very well at the position.