Update: As expected, a lot of prominent Falcons players are not suiting up tonight.
A bit of a roll call here for you: Matt Ryan, AJ Terrell, Hayden Hurst, Calvin Ridley, Jake Matthews, Erik Harris, Duron Harmon, Russell Gage, Grady Jarrett and Foye Oluokun, among other prominent Falcons, not dressing out for Friday night's preseason game against Tennessee.— Scott Bair (@ScottBairNFL) August 13, 2021
The Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans have been oddly joined at the hip all offseason long with the Falcons hiring former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their new head coach and highly decorated Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones being traded to Tennessee.
These two franchises will now be pitted against each other when they battle to open the preseason on Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Atlanta. Determining personnel and playing time is always a trick endeavor but we can money has it that we won’t see many of the headliners on both rosters.
We shouldn’t expect to see Matt Ryan suit up, so we’ll primarily see A.J. McCarron and rookie Feleipe Franks take snaps for the Falcons.
To no surprise, Tennessee starting QB Ryan Tannehill isn’t expected to play, per head coach Mike Vrabel. Logan Woodside has been the resident backup in Nashville for awhile but we may also see Matt Barkley, whom the Titans signed last week.
Mike Davis is entrenched as the Falcons starter but the bulk of the reps will most likely be handled by the committee of Qadree Ollison, Javian Hawkins, Caleb Huntley, and D’Onta Foreman. Ollison has emerged as a good RB2 candidate for the Falcons offense where someone like Foreman is fighting for a roster spot after being signed last week.
Derrick Henry is not expected to play. Head coach Mike Vrabel announced that Darrynton Evans will get the start, so we’ll see what that means for Brian Hill.
For Atlanta, highly doubtful that we’ll see much, if any, of Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, or even Cordarrelle Patterson. This will be a spot for players like Olamide Zaccheaus to get reps.
There’s zero chance we see a Julio Jones appearance against his former team or A.J. Brown on Friday. Instead, we should get plenty of Dez Fitzpatrick and Josh Reynolds for the Tennessee offense.
One of the more interesting decisions to watch out for from Arthur Smith and company is how they play their tight ends for the first preseason game. Incumbent Hayden Hurst is listed ahead of Kyle Pitts on the Falcons’ unofficial depth charts but that may simply be the staff wanting Pitts to earn his role as a starter. So will we see him versus Tennessee? I’d lean no as they’ll let Caleb Repp and Ryan Baker get reps.
Throughout the preseason, we should get a good mix of guys duking it out for the starting tight end spot in Tennessee. That includes the likes of Anthony Firkser, Gabe Holmes, and Luke Stocker among others.