Falcons hold joint practices with Jaguars ahead of preseason finale

Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons hope they’re a good match in 2022
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 3:38 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46/AP) - The Atlanta Falcons hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday ahead of their preseason finale scheduled for Saturday at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

The Falcons lost 24-16 to the lowly New York Jets in their second preseason game and will hope to rebound on Saturday.

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence headlined a few familiar faces returning to Georgia on Wednesday. The former No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft played high school football at Cartersville. The former Clemson quarterback threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2021, something he hopes to improve as he enters his second season in the NFL. The Jaguars also selected UGA alum and Georgia native Travon Walker with their No. 1 overall pick in 2022.

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Falcons and quarterback Marcus Mariota hope they are a good match ahead of the 2022 season after former face of the franchise, Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts during the offseason.

Enter Mariota, who needed a place to jump-start a career that hasn’t come close to meeting expectations since he was picked No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft.

The last time Mariota started a game was in 2019, but he remains confident in his ability to lead a team to success.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to prove, not only to myself but to those who have believed in me,” Mariota said. “I’m excited. The last couple of years was a great reset.”

While the Falcons have a bunch of issues, Mariota is looking forward to working with one of the league’s top tight ends in Kyle Pitts, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and dynamic veteran running back/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson previously played with the Chicago Bears and was a member of the Patriots in 2018. The Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53 played at the Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“We are going to be really versatile and be able to do a lot of different things and that’s going to play to our advantage,” Mariota said. “I think this offense can hunt.”

If Mariota’s hunting comes up empty, the Falcons could turn to rookie Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick who led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff last season.

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Whoever handles the quarterback job might be a short-timer.

If the Falcons land one of the top picks in next year’s draft, they surely will be tempted by a QB class expected to include Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young from Alabama and Ohio State star C.J. Stroud.

This season is expected to be a washout for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2017.

By trading Julio Jones last summer and dealing Ryan in March to Indianapolis, the Falcons accepted a short-term mauling under the salary cap — they have a staggering $63 million in “dead money” — so they’ll have more room to rebuild down the road.

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No wonder the Falcons are rated a 250-1 long shot to reach the Super Bowl by FanDuel Sportsbook — the worst odds for any team except the Houston Texans.

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Coach Arthur Smith said he’s not concerned about the naysayers.

“There’s always going to be peripheral opponents out there,” he said. “You can’t pay attention to that. Good or bad, you see it ruin teams.”

The Falcons team officials released the depth chart ahead of the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday.