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Thursday, December 8, 2022
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What we learned from Friday’s tripleheader

1) After wading in the abyss of below-average defense in recent years, these Falcons could look quite different on that side of the ball in 2021. Dean Pees is in as defensive coordinator and his changes were evident early Friday night. Pees dialed up pressure in the first quarter on third down, sending an “A”-gap blitzer which resulted in a sack, one of two for Atlanta in the first half. Preseason isn’t the best place to make grand personnel-based conclusions, but scheme changes can be seen even with backups on the field, where lesser-known players can emerge in a new system. Marlon Davidson looked much more engaged in the first action in his second season and fits well into Pees’ scheme, consistently causing problems in the first half Friday. Defensive back Jaylinn Hawkins was frequently in on the action, making key tackles and pass break-ups, and capping it off with a timely sack on a blitz just before halftime. The Falcons’ defense didn’t keep the Titans off the scoreboard, but they were flying around and playing with purpose. If anything, Atlanta should be more aggressive with Pees calling the shots.

2) Preseason is so often about taking advantage of the few opportunities afforded. Mekhi Sargent and Cameron Batson capitalized on their few chances Friday. Sargent received 16 carries in the game after Darrynton Evans hobbled off, gaining 58 yards. That total doesn’t jump off a stat sheet, but looked better than described on tape. And Batson made an excellent grab in the end zone on a back-shoulder throw from Logan Woodside for the game’s first touchdown, adding a reception to two punt returns for 25 yards. Woodside was largely sharp Friday, completing 10 of 15 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown while also dealing with frequent pressure from Atlanta. Titans fans will hope they never have to see him in the regular season, but Woodside proved he’s adequate if needed.

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