Just like there are in all preseason games, there were positives to give fans something to look forward to. There were also a lot of negatives by players who won’t be around September 8 when the Falcons are playing the Minnesota Vikings for real. A big positive coming out of the loss to the Miami Dolphins is, this wide receiver group could develop into something special.
Receiver had become an above average position group last season when Calvin Ridley was added to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. So far this preseason though, there appear to be quality additions on the way to join them.
First, 2018 NFL Draft, sixth round pick Russell Gage looks like he’s ready to join the adult table. Gage caught one pass in the Hall of Fame game for 21 yards. He followed up against the Dolphins with three catches for 33 yards. Some of those yards came after the catch too as Gage is developing a talent for making first tacklers miss.
Olamide Zaccheaus has also shown surprising skill so far, for an undrafted free agent. I say surprising because I looked up his scouting report on NFL.com after the Falcons signed him. I have never, in the eight years I’ve been writing about football, seen a scouting report call a player’s pass catching technique “gross”.
Zaccheaus made two catches for 31 yards against the Broncos and followed up against the Dolphins with two catches for 35 yards. That includes the outstanding 28-yard grab down the left sidelines in the first quarter where his toe just barely touched the green inside the sideline. He was also well-covered on the play but outfought the defender to get his hands on the ball.
It’s those kind of plays that get young players on the team and make receivers who dropped clean passes look for work after being released.
If Gage and Zaccheaus keep making plays in the final three preseason games then Matt Ryan is going to have no shortage of reliable targets for his passes in 2019.