Preseason Week 2 Preview: Falcons at Steelers
The second week of the preseason continues with games on Sunday, including one featuring the Atlanta Falcons at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Teams will be looking to see which players improve on their Week 1 performances and which players really grab hold of important roles. The PFF analysis team has all of the important battles and players to watch in this game:
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
Position Battle: Ben Garland/Wes Schweitzer, RG
- Ben Garland: Garland ran with the starters last week, but did not stand out enough to put separation between him and Schweitzer earning a slightly higher overall grade at 49.9 compared to Schweitzer’s 47.7 grade.
- Wes Schweitzer: Schweitzer played slightly better than Garland in pass blocking. Both players earned a pass blocking efficiency rating of 100.0, but Schweitzer did so on twelve pass block snaps compared to Garland’s six pass block snaps. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Schweitzer will be getting the start Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Players To Watch:
- Takkarist McKinley, ED- McKinley ended up sitting out last week’s pre-season opener as he is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. However, McKinley could make his Falcons debut this Sunday. The rookie brings strong pass rush abilities and is coming off a season where he ranked tenth in the NCAA in pressures with 57.
- Terron Ward, RB- Fellow running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman played just three snaps each last week leaving Ward as the main running back last week. Freeman has been ruled out for this Sunday’s matchup leaving more potential playing time for Ward to take behind Coleman. Ward earned a breakaway percentage of 54.6 last week thanks in large part to a twenty-six yard touchdown run.
- J’Terius Jones, ED- Jones signed with the Falcons as a UDFA out of Miami Ohio this past off-season and had a strong performance in week one. Jones played the most defensive snaps of any Falcons player and earned the highest defensive grade at 86.9.
Coverage by: Mike Manning
Position Battle: Justin Hunter/Sammie Coates WR6
- The Steelers Week 2 matchup against the Falcons will be Coates’ and Hunters’ first game action this preseason as they battle for the final wide receiver spot. Coates led the league last season in deep target percentage, 51.0 percent, but also had three drops on his ten catchable passes 20 or more yards downfield. While his 2.05 yards per route run were second on the team, Coates’ passer rating when targeted of 62.9 was lowest on the team.
- Hunter was known as a deep threat early in his career with 39 deep targets from 2013-14 but has only had 10 of those the past two seasons combined. After joining Buffalo in Week 5, Hunter hauled in three touchdowns from the slot which was more than his first three years combined (2). Hunter has the edge in grading, 5 overall compared to Coates’ 104th ranked 46.5, but the competition has just begun.
Players to Watch:
- Martavis Bryant WR – Finally reinstated after his year-long suspension, the Steelers hope Bryant can return to the player that hauled in seven deep touchdowns in his first two seasons on only 15 deep receptions. Bryant’s 2.76 yards per route run his rookie year was the highest of any rookie receiver in PFF history (since 2006). In 2015, he was targeted 27 times on go routes with a passer rating when targeted of 98.2, the best by any Steelers receiver.
- L.J. Fort LB – The former undrafted free agent earned the third highest grade (81.9) on the team last week against the Giants. He’s battling Steven Johnson and Tyler Matakevich for the backup inside linebacker positions. Fort was tied for the team lead with two stops in run defense while not missing a tackle in 33 snaps last week. He also excelled last preseason, his 15.6 run stop percentage was the second highest of any Steelers defender in the 2015 preseason.
- Joshua Dobbs QB – Dobbs introduction to the NFL didn’t go as planned with a grade of 56.9 in his debut but will have a chance to bounce back against the Falcons. The former Volunteer struggled under pressure with one completion for two yards, three sacks and an interception on just seven drop backs. But Dobbs did well when passing deep, improving his passer rating from 22.2 when passing shorter than 20 yards downfield to 95.8 when targeting deeper than 20 yards.