As the Falcons seek their first preseason victory, so too do the Miami Dolphins, who come into the third preseason contest from a very different perspective. Atlanta have established that their first team is as good as any in the NFL, and has looked like a well-oiled machine thus far. Unfortunately it's the backups, and third string who have let the Falcons down.
Conversely the Dolphins seem to have forgone any semblance of sitting and waiting on Ryan Tannehill in favor of thrusting the rookie into the fire. This is a situation that started when David Garrard was injured, and solidified when Tannehill outperformed incumbent Matt Moore during the first preseason game.
On Friday against the Carolina Panthers, Tannehill had his 'Welcome to the NFL' moment as he finished 11/23, for 100 yards and was sacked twice. The offensive line gave the rookie no time to operate, as they faltered under a typically underwhelming pass rush. This will be an excellent chance for the Falcons to further hone their own defensive ends, and with some creativity from Mike Nolan it could spell trouble for Tannehill.
The other issue for the Dolphins in facing Atlanta is their WR corps, who could be one of the worst units in the NFL. Led by Legedu Naanee and Davone Bess, they're a unit that should spell no problem for a vastly more talented Falcons secondary.
On defense it was astonishing how little pass rush Miami generated against Carolina. Cam Newton wasn't the most accurate QB in 2011, but working against Miami he carved them up as he completed over 70% of his passes, at a rate over over 10 yards per attempt. Matt Ryan should eat this defense alive, especially if he's given a full three quarters to work.
Once again it will come down to the second and third team if you really care about preseason wins and losses (which you shouldn't), but if you're so inclined this could be another week where the backups let the team down. Miami are severely lacking top end talent, but against Carolina they narrowed the margin in the second half. The Panthers have been a carbon copy of the Falcons this preseason, where their first team has looked great, and their backups have been average. If Mike Smith and co. want to send a message and get a W, they'll need the backups to perform to their ability.