ATLANTA, Ga. – The Tennessee Titans (1-1) and Atlanta Falcons (1-1) meet for the second time this month, with the stakes higher in tonight's preseason game at the Georgia Dome (6 p.m., CT).
The teams came together for a joint practice in Flower Branch nearly three weeks ago as training camp hit full swing. Tonight's third preseason game could be the last for several players riding the roster bubble as the first round of cuts from 90 to 75 players must be submitted to the NFL office by Tuesday afternoon.
The Falcons seek their second preseason victory after defeating the Dolphins in the opener but falling to Houston last week. Tennessee defeated Green Bay in its opener before falling short at New Orleans a week ago.
The big news out of Atlanta this week is that left tackle Sam Baker is out for the season with a torn patellar tendon. Baker was carted off against the Texans and the worst was realized the following day.
Jake Matthews, the rookie tackle and sixth overall pick from this year's draft, will make the move to left tackle in Baker's absence.
Atlanta should have plenty of snaps to test out Matthews and Atlanta's other starters Saturday night as Matt Ryan and company are expected to play the entire first half.
Ryan has made brief appearances in each of Atlanta's first two preseason games, throwing for 90 yards on 10-of-14 passing.
Lets get right into the things you need to keep your eye on during tonight's contest.
5 THINGS TO WATCH:
1. The Progression of the 3-4
Tonight will give Titans fans the test they've been waiting for. The Titans missed out on starting QBs Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, both of whom sat out vs. Tennessee, but will likely get to see Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and the rest of Atlanta's starting offense for a bulk of the first half.
Tennessee's defense started each of its first two games by allowing a touchdown on the opening drive before responding with stops on subsequent series. All the talk continues to be about starting fast.
Confidence remains high among a group that is eager for another chance to improve in a game situation.
- Pressuring Matt Ryan**
The Titans had a Daimion Stafford interception called back last week against the Saints, meaning the defense is still yet to force its first turnover. The best way to change that is to bring the heat to Matty Ice.
The Falcons will be experimenting with solutions to fill the void left by Sam Baker's season-ending injury. Jurrell Casey and the rest of Tennessee's front seven will look to make the most of their chances to hit the quarterback they weren't allowed to touch a few weeks ago in Flowery Branch.
3. Winning the Turnover Battle
Last week it was the Saints committing penalties and the Titans turning the ball over. With so many positives to take away from the offensive performance – Locker's efficiency, Justin Hunter's domination and a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, to name a few – eliminating turnovers is undoubtedly be a top priority tonight.
4. More Mettenberger
Second-string QB Charlie Whitehurst hasn't been ruled out, but it appears unlikely that he'll see action tonight as the pinky finger on this throwing hand continues to heal.
That means Zach Mettenberger will probably see a majority (if not all) of the snaps in the second half, depending on how long Jake Locker stays in the game. The rookie has posted big numbers through the team's first two preseason contests, ranking third amongst all NFL QBs in passing yards.
His 24of-32 for 356 yards and two touchdowns have turned made a strong impression. Mettenberger does have two interceptions and two fumbles lost that he will work to clean up.
5. Coons vs. Bonani Continues
The kicking competition between Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons continues tonight with more chances for each to be evaluated by head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff. Not much to add here, but until Whisenhunt chooses a winner, it's a battle certainly worth watching.