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Falcons Offensive Report: Preseason Week 2 Vs. Cincinnati

While the result wasn’t the one Falcons’ fans were looking for in their team’s nationally televised loss to the Bengals on Thursday, there were noticeable offensive improvements from week one to week two.

Against the Ravens last week, Matt Ryan was rock solid, debuting with a touchdown pass and a 155 yard passing performance. Ryan showed he could be even better on Thursday, completing 18 of 21 balls for 174 yards and another touchdown. He was also interception free, allowing the Falcons to move away from a running game that was ineffective against a stingy Cincinnati defense led on the evening by Manny Lawson, Roddrick Muckelroy and Dontay Moch.

Ryan’s touchdown came on a two yard pass to fullback Lousaka Polite, playing in his first game in an Atlanta uniform. The Falcons were led through the air by Roddy White, who caught all four of his targets and finished with 54 yards receiving, good for an average of 13.5 yards per catch. White and Julio Jones have combined for 16 catches through weeks one and two of the preseason, with Jones giving way to White this week after leading the way a week ago with over 100 yards receiving.

Also involving themselves in the passing game were tight ends Tony Gonzalez, LaMark Brown and recently acquired Chase Coffman. Gonzalez caught his first three passes of the exhibition season in limited action, and LaMark Brown made a strong case for a roster spot with a 47-yard receiving performance. He also caught a seven yard Dominique Davis touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The third tight end position remains wide open, but may now be Brown’s for the taking. The other rookie tight end in contention, Aron White, did not record a catch Thursday.

As far as practice squad eligibility goes for the battling tight ends, Brown, White and Tommy Gallarda all have the option of spending the year on the practice team. Chase Coffman does not have that same luxury however, and would be a more difficult keep for the Falcons due to his already spending two years in the NFL.

The Atlanta ground game was led by Jacquizz Rodgers for the second week in a row. After finishing with 33 yards against the Ravens, Rodgers carried four times for 24 yards Thursday. Rodgers appears to have a roster spot, but it will most certainly be behind Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. Snelling has yet to play a snap in the preseason however, as he continues to battle a leg injury.

For the second straight year, there is competition for the final running back spot between Dimitri Nance and Antone Smith. Both rushed for 16 yards on Thursday, though it took Nance an extra carry to do it. Smith was also the better receiving option, and appears to have the edge on Nance.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas made his 2012 debut Thursday, and caught three passes for 27 yards. While Douglas, the Falcons presumed third receiving option was able to suit up however, slot target Kerry Meier was held out after missing a week of practice with a leg injury. Meier’s role is primarily on special teams, and he doesn’t figure to contribute much offensively. He is the Falcons’ only true slot receiver however, and was joined on the sideline by speedster Michael Calvin, also out with a leg injury.

Meier and Calvin were replaced in the deep-receiver rotation by Kenny Stafford and Marcus Jackson.

Perhaps the most concerning facet of the offense on Thursday was the offensive line. It’s difficult to evaluate the Falcons’ O-Line at times due to the different styles utilized by quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Dominique Davis. In protecting pocket passer Matt Ryan, the line struggled noticeably in the first quarter. Ryan was forced to scramble out of the pocket on several occasions, and neither Sam Baker nor Will Svitek did much to achieve separation from one another as the game wore on. Baker remains ahead of Svitek as the team’s starting left tackle.

Though the unit improved in the second half, the Falcons were dealt a bit of scare in the third quarter when rookie Peter Konz was hurt and had to exit the game. Only a week removed from announcing rookie Bradie Ewing would miss the 2012 season, the Falcons can hardly afford to lose another rookie. Konz was eventually able to return later in the game, however, and isn’t expected to miss any time.

Fellow rookie offensive lineman Lamar Holmes was inactive for the second straight week, and is still listed as the third string left tackle on the team’s depth chart.

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