5 on the Rise
- Wes Welker – Welker saw his first game action since returning from ACL surgery. He didn’t show any signs that the knee was a problem, taking some hard hits and popping back up. He finished the night with 2 catches for 20 yards.
- Aaron Hernandez – The rookie tight end showed what he can do, lining up all over the place and hauling in 4 passes for 46 yds and a spectacular back-hip touchdown.
- Fred Taylor – The old back looked like he had young legs, showing burst and power, finishing his runs by delivering hits on defenders. He turned on the jets after bouncing off a would-be tackler and ran 28 yds for a TD. He rushed 11 times for 54 yds, good for a 4.9 yds/carry average.
- Rob Gronkowski – Not to be outdone by his fellow rookie TE, Gronk also hauled in 4 passes for 38 yds and a touchdown. The TD reception was a great over-the-shoulder catch, and he showed that he had some speed to go along with that powerful frame.
- Ron Brace – It’s hard not to go anywhere but up from where he started training camp. He was finally activated off the non-football injury/reserve list this past week and was thrown right into the mix at left defensive end due to the lack of depth along the defensive line. He had a solid performance, making 3 tackles and forcing a fumble, though he did whiff on a would-be sack. He held up well and may be showing the progress that he supposedly made earlier in the year during mini-camps. If Ron Brace can step up and be a reliable sub or even starter on the line, it will go a long way in easing the loss of Ty Warren.
- Ted Larsen – The back-up guard had two false start penalties on the same drive that hurt the team. The back-up offensive line as a whole looked soft in the middle, but due to the penalties, Larsen stands out as the goat here.
- Outside Linebackers – The OLBs, paper thin in the depth department, didn’t have an overly impressive night. Marques Murrell and Derrick Burgess started and didn’t get much pressure on QB Matt Ryan, allowing him to have the time to hit his check-downs. Rob Ninkovich still seems to struggle setting the edge, though he did have sack late in the game.
- Stephen Gostkowski – Gostkowski missed his only field goal attempt of the game, a 41-yarder that was wide right. He lucked out getting a roughing-the-kicker penalty called which gave the offense a second chance (and eventual TD), but that’s on the Falcons. Gostkowski doesn’t have anything to worry about in terms of his job security, though he surely wants to avoid the slow start he had last season.
- Jonathon Wilhite – Sure, he had an INT on 4th and 15. However, had he simply swatted the ball away, the team would have had much better field position. Also, he may have been out of position when he made the pick. Can’t know for sure because we don’t know what the play call was, but it looked like Cover-2 and Wilhite had the underneath zone. There was a back underneath that he should have picked up but he dropped back. If the back was his assignment and QB John Parker Wilson recognized the blown coverage, the back had plenty of space and one broken tackle would have likely meant a first down. When the regular season comes, NFL starting QBs won’t make that mistake. Plus that dance he did after the pick was horrible. He’s lucky he wasn’t flagged for excessive celebration.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis – After a decent performance last week, he wasn’t able to do much with the 7 carries he got, scrounging up only 12 yards. It’s quite possible that it was more an offensive line deficiency, but Sammy Morris did well when he stepped in. “The Law Firm,” unfortunately for him, is trying to compete at a deep position and he really has to stand out if he hopes to make the team. At this point, the only way I feel he makes the team is if it decides to keep 5 backs, which is less likely due to the lack of depth in other areas (O-line, OLBs, D-line).