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The Atlanta Falcons are a professional American football team based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons compete in the National Football League as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference South division. The Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team, after the NFL offered then-owner Rankin Smith a franchise to keep him from joining the rival American Football League.

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The Falcons played their first game of the 2019 preseason on Thursday night – a 14-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game – and a number of players and performances stood out. You have plenty of questions about the game and this team, so let’s get to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

And we’re off.

Rick from Duluth, GA

Beek, it’s good to finally see some football and the Dirty Birds in action again. I know it’s just preseason and the games don’t matter in the standings, but who stood out to you?

Matt: Yes, it’s great to have football back – and actual games to talk about. I think there were a handful of players, who made positive impressions on Thursday night. Running back Brian Hill, quarterback Kurt Benkert, defensive end John Cominsky, guard Chris Lindstrom and linebacker Jermaine Grace. And I’d even throw receiver Christian Blake into the mix. Hill, to me, is one of the feel-good stories unfolding with this team, especially if you go all the way back to his slow start as a rookie in 2017. He’s worked really hard at getting better, especially in the passing game, and it’s starting to pay off in a big way for third-year back out of Wyoming. He ran it 11 times for 57 yards and had the one touchdown catch. For more on Hill and four other players who have stood out in training camp so far, read my latest column here.

Benkert showed a lot of zip slingin’ the ball downfield and put up some nice numbers despite some bad drops from Falcons receivers. Unfortunately, the second-year pro out of Virginia hurt his toe and we don’t know the severity of his injury yet. Hopefully it doesn’t derail his preseason – or his chances of competing for the backup job behind Matt Ryan. I need to go back and watch more video, but I liked what I saw from rookie guard Chris Lindstrom. The first-round pick was aggressive and looked dominant at times. John Cominsky had a nice homecoming of sorts, tallying five tackles, a sack and an fumble recovery. That’s huge for his confidence and this defense moving forward. Linebacker Jermaine Grace was flying around and making tackles, showing off his range, instincts and strength. And Christian Blake continues to have an impressive camp and preseason. He led all receivers with five catches for 46 yards and keeps making plays.

Ricky from Greensboro, NC
I understand that Matt Schaub has the knowledge and experience needed for a backup QB, but his age is truly showing on the field. He couldn’t really perform. Do you still believe that we should keep him?

Matt: Yes, and you can’t make that decision based on one preseason game. I get that for many Falcons fans, last night’s game against the Broncos was the first time they’ve seen this team in 2019. While Matt Schaub had a dismal night completing just 4 of 14 passes for 10 yards and an interception, no one is going to make any snap judgments based off Thursday night’s game. Virtually all of the starters sat out; Schaub was playing with a lot of young, unproven players – many of whom were seeing their first NFL action.

The coaches know what Schaub can do and see it every time he steps out onto the practice fields. That all said, Kurt Benkert played really well – definitely outplayed Schaub on Thursday night – and that is worth watching moving forward. Unfortunately, Benkert also injured his toe and we don’t know the severity of the injury yet. The Falcons will have to sign another quarterback if he’s going to miss time.

It’s hard to believe that the Falcons have already completed their second four-day block of training camp and are now up in Ohio getting ready to play the first of five preseason games on Thursday night.

And it’s not even August yet.

So, yeah, it is still really early and there’s a lot to be determined when it comes to the Falcons roster and depth chart – never mind who will end up on the practice squad.

That said, a handful of players have caught my attention for different reasons through the first eight practices. Now, I am not saying they’re having the best camp and outperforming everyone else in their respective position groups – only the coaches and the folks in the personnel department know that.

But these are guys who’ve stood out to me early on. And so without further ado, here they are and in no specific order.