NJ’s EAST RUTHERFORD The Falcons and Jets played one other on Monday night following two combined sessions earlier in the week. 24-16 was the Falcons’ loss.
Take everything throughout this week of combined practices with a grain of salt, Arthur Smith said earlier in the week. Additionally, it is how the Falcons’ second preseason game ought to be viewed. On Monday night, the Jets barely used any of their starters. The Falcons performed throughout the opening frame. But what about the last two minutes of the game? All of the reserves from both squads spent the most of that time there.
So, with all of this in mind, who stood out for the Falcons and what does their limited evaluations mean for the overall scope of where this team is in the preseason?
Against Detroit last week, we saw Mariota for a single drive. On Monday night against the Jets, we saw a lot more of the Falcons starter. He finished the first quarter connecting on 6-of-10 passes for 132 yards. He looked well under control of the offense, connecting with Kyle Pitts for a 52-yard catch and later Olamide Zaccheaus for a 13-yard touchdown reception that saw Zaccheaus run a beautiful concept of a route.
If we’re nit-picking Mariota’s performance, it would be that a few of his passes were under thrown. His 53-yard pass to Pitts had the tight end slowing down in his route to time up his catch. In the second drive, Mariota did something similar with a pass to Anthony Firkser that went for a 39-yard pick up. If these throws are out in front of Pitts and Firkser we may be talking touchdowns. Mariota’s final drive of the first quarter wasn’t as productive as the first two. He threw a ball into the ground intended for Qadree Ollison on second down, and followed it up by missing Zaccheaus on third down, too.
It’s the preseason, so timing will come, and it’s not something to be overly concerned with, just something to note. But hey, 132 yards for Mariota in one quarter isn’t too bad of a night. There are just some things timing-wise to clean up for the veteran quarterback moving forward.
Let’s talk the rookie now.
Something Arthur Smith has spoken at length about throughout training camp and the preseason is wanting to see how players respond to failure. He wants to see players bounce back when things break down, and in the second quarter of Monday night’s game, things did break down.
Penalties rained down on the Falcons offense in the second quarter. Jalen Mayfield was called for a false start when the Falcons were looking at a fourth down situation from the Jets one yard line. It was a moment that saw Smith heatedly get after Ridder and the offensive line as they made their way to the sideline afterwards.
The Falcons defense got a stop, though, and the second-team offense got the ball back with two minutes left in the half. Ridder bounced back from the previous drive well. He looked crisp with his passes and saw success finding Jared Bernhardt for three passes for 67 yards. Again, penalties accumulated, though. Offensive holdings and an illegal shift kept the Falcons out of the endzone, and they settled for a short field goal from Younghoe Koo to end the half.
Despite the errors, it should be noted that Ridder continued to respond with the penalties by making something happen to move the ball downfield. Feleipe Franks came in at quarterback halfway through the third quarter, so Ridder’s night ended with the rookie quarterback going 10-for-13 through the air with 143 yards. Not a bad stat line overall.