Falcons vs. Dolphins: 8 players to watch in Thursday’s preseason matchup
With their loss in the Hall of Fame Game, the Falcons have now dropped nine straight preseason contests. That doesn’t matter, but having a good backup quarterback does and Schaub’s performance the last few preseasons has been bad enough to warrant real concern.
Schaub shouldn’t be expected to play at a Pro Bowl level like he did 10 years ago. However, if Matt Ryan were to get injured Atlanta’s passing offense would be in a tremendous amount of trouble.
At some point in the next four games, Schaub has to prove he still has the arm strength and accuracy to make pro throws. He’s under as much pressure as anyone going into this game. If he lays another egg against the Dolphins, the Falcons have to consider bringing in another veteran for competition.
Third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert played far better than Schaub against Denver. He also injured his toe in the fourth quarter and it was significant enough for Atlanta to bring back Matt Simms, who served as the No. 3/practice squad QB before Benkert came along.
If nothing else, Simms knows the fundamentals of the offense and is familiar with at least some of the pieces. Even if he’s a standout for the rest of the preseason, Simms is probably never going to be a legitimate answer to backup Matt Ryan. The Falcons need all the depth they can get at the position right now, though.
Backup running back Brian Hill was one of only a handful of Atlanta players that had good games last week. He was by far the team’s most efficient running back, averaging over five yards per carry while no other RB could crack two. Hill also scored the team’s only touchdown.
This means the competition to see who plays behind starter Devonta Freeman just got even more interesting. We assumed Ito Smith would take that role in the offseason, but coach Dan Quinn says there is no favorite right now. Another productive game for Hill could move him to the front of the line, though.
The Falcons brought in several undrafted free agent wide receivers this year. Virginia’s Olamide Zaccheaus has gotten the most hype, but he struggled in Canton, catching just two of six targets and dropping a punt.
Christian Blake and Shawn Bane wound up leading the way for the UDFA receivers, combining for eight catches and 75 yards. Bane nearly scored a touchdown after making a catch at the goal line on a laser from Kurt Benkert, but Denver managed to keep him out of the end zone. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley unlikely to play, they should get another opportunity to shine in Miami.