ReFo: JAX @ ATL, Preseason WK 4
This fourth preseason game was the time to shine for the bottom-of-the-roster players for both Atlanta and Jacksonville. Khaled Elsayed covers those performances in this Refocused piece.
ReFo: JAX @ ATL, Preseason WK 4
The powerhouse Atlanta Falcons are now perennial playoff contenders and could afford to rest their starters completely for this one. In contrast, the rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars have turned over a new page and the team is trying to get their starters as much practice as possible without getting too risky when it comes to injury.
For the most part of Thursday night they found themselves in the same situation however; assessing guys fighting for roster spots to determine who would make the final 53. Let’s do some assessing of our own.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
The King is Dead, Long Live the King
It almost seems odd that the Jaguars will head into the new season with Will Ta’ufo’ou (+2.1) lead blocking rather than Greg Jones. But the man who got on the field for 49 snaps last year used his 19 in this game to deliver a reminder as to why that is.
Winning nearly all his battles with Paul Worrilow and others, his performance will have impressed fans keen to see no drop off at the position. Outside of getting beat early on by Robert James for a tackle for a short gain, he was near perfect, and highlighted this as he dominated Robert Alford with a beautiful block to the ground with 10:22 to go in the third quarter.
Cornering the Market
He may have only be snapped up this week but Will Blackmon (+3.3) is experienced enough to know he can’t be wasting opportunities. He was thrown at five times but allowed only one reception for eight yards and also picked off a ball for good measure. Throw in some useful return work on special teams and he showed why he’ll still be in the league this year.
As strange as it is though, he wasn’t the highest-graded cornerback for the Jaguars in this game. That honor went to Demetrius McCray (+4.4) who the Falcons went after eight times. Unfortunately for them he responded by breaking up two passes and allowing just two receptions for 13 yards.
The team has some “nice” decisions to make.
Of course things are rarely completely rosey. 2012 second-round pick Andre Branch (-4.9) looks set for a small (if any) role in 2013 and this abject display against Atlanta would have done nothing to have changed that.
From 23 pass rushes he had just one hurry to show for it, while getting flagged for two penalties and getting pushed about in the run game. You’re likely to have never heard of Ryan Schraeder, but on Thursday it would have been a lot harder to tell who the undrafted free agent was out of the two as they locked horns.
Atlanta – Three Performances of Note
Starting to be a Problem
On offense, Atlanta rested all of their starters. Except one. Unfortunately, that one is the guy they need to make the biggest leap forward of all players this year, but Lamarr Holmes (-2.5) doesn’t appear ready yet based on his play here.
Going predominantly against backups on his 39 snaps, he was beaten for a sack by Pannel Egboh in embarrassingly quick fashion (2:08 in the second quarter) while also becoming a victim to the spin move of Ryan Davis for a hurry with twenty seconds to go in the first half. His run blocking was chiefly his biggest issue again and, not for the first time this offseason, he was beat for a tackle for a loss (2:08 in the second quarter).
If this is happening against the Jaguars backups, what happens when he faces off with Charles Johnson?
Fifth-Rounder Becoming Good
We saw Jonathan Massaquoi (+3.5) get 41 snaps as a rookie with the team careful not to put him on an NFL field before he was ready. Well, if he can continue to deliver like this, then that plan will have been executed excellently.
His highlight reel play came with his sack and fumble recovery for a touchdown (second quarter, 1:36) but that wasn’t all he did as he finished with two tackles for a loss, with the first of them (9:51 in the first quarter) being particularly impressive. He’ll have sterner tests, and the team will want to see him generating more pressure, but it’s something to build on.
I mentioned him earlier but this was another strong preseason outing for Ryan Schraeder (+4.4). Through four games he’s given up just five hurries and his shutdown of Andre Branch today was his finest yet. This, however, was the first game he really showcased his work in the run game as he was in control of the Jaguars defenders throughout most of the game.
The undrafted free agent from Valdosta State was a long shot to make the roster at the start of training camp, but has surely done enough that he’ll be in possession of some teams playbook come opening week.
– In another strong display, Jordan Todman picked up 60 yards on nine carries after forcing three missed tackles.
– The quarterback rating of Dominqiue Davis under pressure? A paltry 39.6.
– Pass rusher Ryan Davies led the team with a hit and six hurries on 36 pass rushes.
We do like to see good tackle displays. With that in mind it’s Ryan Schraeder.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled