There’s no place like home. No, it wasn’t Dorothy clicking her heels together instead it was Matt Schaub. Schaub returned under center in a Falcons uniform for the first time since 2006 and made the best of it as Atlanta won their preseason opener Thursday over the Washington Redskins 23-14.
Schaub, a third round pick out of Virginia in 2004 was Michael Vick’s backup until he was traded to Houston in 2007 was 10-of-15 for 179 yards leading the team on a 23-point run as the Falcons made relatively easy work of the Redskins.
For starter Matt Ryan his season debut did not far as well. In the two series he ran the offense went three-and-out, as he was 0-4 passing. Field position wasn’t his friend as both possession began deep in Atlanta territory as their opening drive began at the one.
Already there is a quarterback controversy brewing in Atlanta. With Schaub’s sharp showing people are wondering what is in store for the Falcons’ offense. The Falcons are paying an awful lot for a backup that most likely won’t see the field except in a mop up role or an unforeseen injury to Ryan who has stayed relatively injury free his entire career.
Schaub was an outstanding backup in Atlanta and back then I wished the team had broken ties with Vick. Schaub was equally as mobile, just not as fast and an accurate thrower. I remember his lone start in ’05 against the Patriots where he put on a show as the Falcons fell just short 31-28. In the game he threw for 298 yards and three scores. I was however used to Vick under center. Every time the pocket broke up Schaub would scramble. He moved around effectively and then found an open receiver. That was in contrast to Vick who would have run with the ball.
Schaub had a good career in Houston before injury and lack of playoff success saw him expendable after the 2013 season. He bounced around the Raiders and the Ravens the last two seasons being plagued by turnover and found himself a free agent in the off-season when Atlanta pounced on the opportunity to resign their former backup and his was glad to sign.
There are more reasons as to why there is scuttlebutt over a growing quarterback controversy after one game. Schaub’s best years in Houston (which were most of them) were with Kyle Shanahan as either his quarterback coach or offensive coordinator. Shanahan’s tenure in Atlanta has been mediocre at best. He inherite3d one of the most high powered offenses since the “Greatest Show on Turf” and has managed to disassemble it. His main claim to fame is being Mike Shanahan’s son, whose reputation was winning two Super Bowls with Denver from a team he quite frankly inherited that Dan Reeves built but was let go because of John Elway. The elder Shanahan has been a mediocre coach for the most part since.
Since Shanahan’s arrival both Roddy White and Harry Douglas are gone – two of Ryan’s best receivers other than Julio Jones, and Ryan had been under constant pressure – more so than years past, which is ironic since the team rebuilt an aging running game successfully through the draft. Devonta Freeman was actually part of Mike Smith’s last draft class.
The Falcons troubles over the past three seasons could have been easily avoided but everyone saw it coming.
After literally falling ten yards short of the Super Bowl in 2012 the Falcons looked for a quick fix in order to “get over the hump”. With running back Michael Turner on his last legs instead of looking to the draft they opted for free agent veteran Steven Jackson, who despite his potential Hall of Fame career had more miles on him than Turner and was injured in the home opener and never showed much in his two year stint and high salary. The team didn’t draft defensive linemen while opting to let John Abraham go. Abraham went on to have one more stellar season in Arizona unlike the Falcon defense that fell into disarray and despite Dan Quinn’s efforts remains so.
The Atlanta Falcons fall from grace has been due to an inordinate number of injuries the past three seasons and not enough viable backups. And of course that has to do with the salary cap and choosing the right players at the right time to hit it just right. Long term dynasties are a thing of the past with the exception of the Patriots who have been lucky and depending on who you talk with a little deceptive (to put it nicely).
While I don’t think Ryan’s status is in jeopardy more weight has been put on his shoulders since his new contract and quite frankly unfairly. The offense has sputtered because of redundant play calling by Shanahan and a shaky offensive line. Let us not forget the defensive woes that still remain despite Quinn’s hiring were supposed to correct that. People forget Mike Smith was a highly touted defensive coordinator when he originally came to the Falcons.
All things aside the preseason opener looked good for Atlanta. Aldrick Robinson impressed in his rookie outing catching 3 passed for 118 yards the first of which was 68 yards that set up Atlanta’s first touchdown, a one-yard plunge by Brandon
Wilds another rookie. Atlanta quarterbacks spread the ball around to 10 different receivers and the offensive line the looks to get back into form did not allow a quarterback. By comparison the Falcon defense forced three QB sacks with Washington reserve Nate Sudfeld feeling the brunt.
Special teams impressed as well. J.D. McKissic returned the second half opening kickoff 101 for the score and put everyone at ease with the release of Devin Hester. Hester of course was one of those high-priced free agents brought in to fill a need that didn’t need attention. With the return of Eric Weems again a couple of years ago and with McKissic it made easy work of the Hester deletion.
With their win the Falcons are the only team in their division to win their preseason opener. Atlanta heads to Cleveland Thursday night to take on the yet again new look Browns with yet another new coach and now Robert Griffin III under center.
– Dave Weinthal
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