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Falcons, Jaguars Hope to Avoid Fanfare

It’s a couple hours before kickoff, and there isn’t much to say about tonight’s Falcons/Jaguars match up in Jacksonville. If all goes according to plan, there won’t be much to say about it after the fact either, at around 10:30 or so when the preseason slate concludes.

Tonight’s aim will be to ensure all 25 starters, along with many top backups, make it through four quarters injury free. For many starters, that most certainly means not suiting up at all. For others, one or two series ought to be enough work.

There are still cuts to be made, (22 of them to be exact) though a glance at the team’s depth chart gives a pretty good indication of who is likely to be staying and who is likely to be going. There’s still a degree of uncertainty at the bottom of the receiver ladder, not so much with who will man the roster spots, but instead with the pecking order. Kerry Meier, Tim Toone and Kevin Cone all figure to earn a look, but the order of their roster placement remain(s) up in the air.

The fullback competition is one of the last remaining battles in camp, and has come down to the wire between Lousaka Polite and Mike Cox. Cox remains ahead on the depth chart, and has an edge in the blocking department. Polite is a better offensive weapon though, so should either stand out tonight it may be enough to earn a roster spot.

Tommy Gallarda has done enough to earn the third tight end job, beating out a handful of rookies this summer. Because the Falcons are pretty versatile at guard and tackle however, Gallarda’s goal line-specific role may be nonexistent if the Falcons keep an extra lineman around to start the season. Garrett Reynolds and Tyson Clabo are both goal line blocking options, and keeping one less tight end could allow the Falcons to keep an extra running back (Antone Smith or Dimitri Nance) or defensive back.

The only really mystery on the defensive side is of course then at defensive back. The Falcons currently have four pro-experienced safeties on the roster, but have been impressed with the play of rookie draft pick Charles Mitchell. If Mitchell bypasses the practice squad, that would mean either Chris Hope or Shann Schillinger would be out of a job. That is, of course, unless the Falcons go with one less corner. That’s a possibility, given that Chris Owens hasn’t played at all this preseason and Hope and Schillinger both figure to make their money primarily on special teams.

A couple other things to keep an eye on tonight:

-Former Falcons’ Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey reacquaints himself with his former team, as Mularkey is the man charged with reinventing Jaguars’ QB Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has looked impressive this preseason, but still has a ways to go after a disappointing rookie campaign. He won’t be helped by the fact that Maurice Jones-Drew continues his contract hold out, though its unlikely MJD would have suited up tonight anyway. In their regular season meeting last year, the Falcons beat up on Jacksonville 41-14 in week 15. Mularkey’s replacement in Atlanta by the way is former Jaguars’ offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

-This is Atlanta’s final tune-up for their regular season opener a week from Sunday in Kansas City. There has been quite a bit of skepticism surrounding Chiefs’ rookie nose tackle Dontari Poe (11th overall in 2012 draft) this preseason, but after not starting his team’s first three preseason games, Poe looks as if he’ll get the nod tonight vs. Green Bay. While the numbers haven’t been there for Poe this preseason, he’s a mighty force and big body in the center of the line capable of wreaking havoc and batting down low throws. Look to see how the Falcons go about dealing with an impactful presence at the nose tonight against Jacksonville’s CJ Mosley, Terrance Knighton and/or Tyson Alualu. All three have been solid contributors the past two years, and if in the lineup tonight should give the Falcons a decent representation of what the Chiefs hope to bring in week one.

Stay tuned for post-game thoughts later tonight and roster moves throughout the weekend.

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