Last night the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons held a joint practice down at the Florida Blue practice fields. It was very interesting to see how practice played out with teams not going against players they're used to seeing everyday and it made for a more competitive and intense practice. One big observation that jumped out to me, was how good the Atlanta Falcons are. Not just on their front lines, either. They're deep.
You could tell from watching the two, there is a clear cut gap between the Falcons and the Jaguars. In virtually every area sans maybe runningback and tight end, the Falcons are markedly better.
I set out to watch a few specific things in the practice on my way to the field, but because of how practice flowed it was tough to catch everything. The teams ran the same drills on two fields at once. The Jaguars offensive unit was on the field closest to the bleachers while the Jaguars defensive unit was on the middle field. Due to this, it made it difficult to really single out defensive players, so my overall observations are going to be offensively focused. Here are a couple of quick defensive observations, though:
- Rashean Mathis is poised for a good season. He had Roddy White blanketed in coverage on one play, then on the very next play swatted a ball away from rookie Julio Jones.
- Austen Lane was handled by tackle Tyson Clabo. It wasn't just Lane however, as the majority of the Jaguars defensive line was handled by the Falcons offensive line. Only Jeremy Mincey seemed to be able to get some pressure and Matt Roth chased Matt Ryan out of the pocket once.
- Courtney Greene made a nice interception off a Matt Ryan ball tipped by a Jaguars defender, but I'm not sure who tipped the ball in the air.
- Matt Ryan and the other Falcons quarterbacks typically had a clean pocket to work with.
- Julio Jones is good.
Now, the Jaguars offense was easy to follow since it was right in front of us.
- David Garrard had two very nice touchdown throws in 11x11 drills. In one redzone drill, he rifled a ball to Jason Hill on a slant for a touchdown. On the opposite side of the field, Garrard put a nice fade pass to the corner of the endzone for a leaping touchdown. Garrard also had some misfires too, often checking down to his backs and tight ends. Overall though, he had a solid practice and it didn't look like his back was bothering him. Well, aside from the fact that trainers were constantly tending to it between drills. Garrard didn't do the final two-minute drill at all, I assume because of the risk of contact and his back issue.
- Right tackles Guy Whimper and Daniel Baldridge were beaten silly in pass rushing drills. On more than one occasion, they didn't even get a hand on their guy. Kroy Biermann whipped each easily on multiple occasions. Get well soon, Eben.
- Eugene Monroe had a solid night. He was beaten by Ray Edwards easily in one drill, but for the most part held his own against Edwards and John Abraham.
- Blaine Gabbert had a nice night as well, concluding practice running the two-minute drill with the first unit. In redzone drills, Gabbert rifled a ball between defenders to runningback Richard Murphy for what should have been a touchdown, but Murphy dropped the ball. On another 11x11 drill, Gabbert was nearly picked by a Falcons defender, not quite putting enough arch on his pass.
- Tiquan Underwood had a nice practice, I can't recall him dropping a pass. Undrafted rookie Jamar Newsome however, had a rough night. He was able to get open on multiple plays, but just couldn't seem to haul in the passes.
- Cecil Shorts continues to shine, and in my opinion has been the best receiver throughout training camp... including Mike Thomas. Barring injury, I think Shorts has the slot receiver position on lockdown.
It will be fun to watch the game on Friday. David Garrard is slated to start the game, as expected. How long he will play is what will be interesting. If he's getting hit, I feel the leash will be short as to not risk aggrevation of his back. Gabbert is expected to come in mid-second quarter, with Luke McCown finishing off the game in the second half.