Despite a 0-3 record in the preseason, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to evaluate players during the preseason finale on Thursday.
The Falcons will close out the preseason against the 0-3 Miami Dolphins, 7 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz stadium.
Quinn said that this game is pivotal to determining what players will eventually become a part of the Falcons’ final 53-man roster.
“[This game is about] making sure that we have real opportunities to evaluate the guys on the things that we’re looking for,” he said. “We gotta design some play calls so we can put a player into a spot. We want to blitz this linebacker, we want to get this guy the ball, we want to get a runner a certain amount of carries.”
Quinn is expected to again keep wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman on the sideline, in an attempt to keep both healthy for the regular season. Neither of the players has played a single down during the preseason.
The Falcons’ offense will look to be much more productive against the Dolphins. Last week, the offense did not score a touchdown and was outgained by the Jacksonville Jaguars in total yardage 261-406.
The Falcons fared much better on the defensive side of the ball against the Jags. Damontae Kazee continued to play at a high level; he led the Falcons in tackles and was involved in several key defensive plays.
The Falcons also won the turnover battle, as defensive back Blidi Wreh-Wilson and safety Keanu Neal both come away with interceptions.
Special teams look to benefit from the return of kicker Matt Bryant. Bryant was 2/2 for field goals last week, including a 47-yarder. Receiver Calvin Ridley has looked good in the kickoff game; the Falcons hope that the rookie will continue to contribute to their field position game.
The Dolphins also view this matchup as an excellent last opportunity for players to make an impression prior to the NFL’s 53-man roster deadline. Head coach Adam Gase is particularly optimistic about the Dolphins’ rookies.
“This rookie class is [exhibiting] a different kind of maturity,” Gase said. “They’re executing; they’re being impactful.” The Dolphins also expect a significant contribution from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as he continues to bounce back from a season-ending injury last year.