Tonight at 8:00, the Falcons will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in both teams' first preseason game of the year. It's a bittersweet time in Atlanta for the Falcons. While it's great to see the Falcons back in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons have been hit hard by injury lately. They lost starting RT Mike Johnson conceivably for the season with a fibula fracture and an ankle dislocation, and starting OLB Sean Weatherspoon indefinitely with a dislocated finger.
Both players will be out tonight, along with WR Julio Jones who has some tightness in his hamstring. Jones' injury is not nearly as severe, and he shouldn't miss a lot of time, but it's still worth mentioning.
Tonight we will get our first look at a bunch of players who are looking to prove themselves to the Falcons in hopes of making the team. With the recent injuries to two key starters, players who are trying out for LB or the O-line will have a great chance to make statements regarding their future with the Falcons.
SOME SHOES TO FILL… OR HOLES TO PLUG
We will get our first look at our first and second round draft selections Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. The first year corners will be seeing their first NFL action tonight, and despite the fact that both will be starters this season, look for them to see a decent amount of action tonight in the hopes of preparing them for the season.
Lamar Holmes, who is second on the depth chart to Mike Johnson, will get a big look tonight. Holmes has only played in one NFL game in his career (last season) but is looking to put his big 330 pound stamp on the starting right tackle position after the injury to the Johnson. In his interview with AJC Falcons writer D. Orlando Ledbetter, Holmes had this to say:
I feel like I can come in there and be a contributor from day one, because I’m going to work and whoever’s across from me, I’m going to make them work hard every day, all day.
The Falcons signed Holmes to a four year deal after drafting him in the third round (91st overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft, so sooner or later, he was bound to get his shot. It's just coming sooner than the Falcons expected.
With Weatherspoon out, look for Joplo Bartu, Robert James, Paul Worrilow and Nick Clancy to see some time at OLB today. Especially keep an eye on Clancy. Probably the best out of this group, Clancy was fourth in the nation last year with Boston College in tackles, recording 145.
Peter Konz will also see his first action at Center this year after playing guard last season. With legend Todd McClure retiring after last season, Konz was drafted in 2012 because of McClure's impending retirement. Center is Konz's natural positions, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing captain of the offensive line at the NFL level. Even though Matt Ryan will only play a series tonight (if that), it'll be good to see the young center and the veteran quarterback's communication and chemistry between one another.
S-JAX AND OSI LIKELY TO SIT
It's increasingly important for the Falcons to stay healthy during these preseason games. Don't expect many of the veteran starters to see a lot of action tonight. Especially older players. If you were expecting to see Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora in their new Falcons uniforms, you may be disappointed.
This will be a game of position battles for both sides as many players will be fighting for the right to stay on the roster. Winning and losing matters very little in preseason football. The main thing the coaches are looking for is to see who can handle playing in the NFL and who can't. One preseason game isn't go to decide this, but each game will either hurt or help the value of many players gunning for a shot at the roster.
The game is at 8:00 EST on ESPN. For those of you in the Atlanta area who aren't going to the game, and don't have cable, don't fret! The game will also air on WSB (channel 2).
For those that are going to the game, remember the NFL has heightened its security with more intricate security checks of fans upon arrival. So it may take a bit longer to get through those lines in order to enter the Dome. So please plan accordingly.
We will be keeping you up to date with live twitter updates during the game. We will also have a full game report after the game is over, so come back here once the game is finished to get a full dish on our impressions of the game.
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