Falcons' Smith talks practice vs. Texans

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Coach Mike Smith talked about the expectations for his team as the Atlanta Falcons prepare to start joint practices with the Texans in Houston Wednesday morning.

The teams will practice together two consecutive days in preparation for Saturday's preseason game. It will be the second joint practice for the Falcons this preseason following last Monday's one-day session with the Tennessee Titans.

"We're still in the evaluation process," Smith said. "There are going to be a lot of guys that did some things in the ball game in Week 1 that are going to get an opportunity to play a little bit more in Week 2, not only in the game but in practice.

"When you practice against someone else, you get to evaluate them against players that they haven't seen or haven't been working against 15 practices. We want to get some special teams work done. We've been moving a lot of guys around in special teams to evaluate the guys in different roles. So we'll continue to do that while we're there."

The Falcons' joint practice with the Titans was a bit chippy from the start and carried on throughout the entire day as Titans safety Bernard Pollard taunted the Falcons by calling them pretenders. There were a few guys taken to the ground during special teams play.

It will be interesting to see what tone is set in Houston.

"I think it will be very similar in terms of the practice schedule and the practice structure," Smith said. "We're a little further along so they'll be some situational periods that will be different than the Titans' practice. But again, we're talking about going down there and playing thud. We're not going to take guys to the ground. We're going to make sure that we're not cut-blocking. And we want to have a good, clean practice.

"It's going to be good for us to compete against really good players. I think their team is, in some ways, similar to ours in terms of the type of season that they had last year. They've got some really good players. I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to watch our guys compete against one of the top receivers in all of football [Andre Johnson]. They've got a very good running back in [Arian] Foster. So, we're going to get a chance to play against some really good players."

Both Johnson and Foster are coming off injuries, so their status remains unclear, but they could return for Saturday's game.

Smith has plenty of respect for new Texans coach Bill O'Brien, too.

"Bill has done a very good job everywhere he's been," Smith said of O'Brien. "He was here when we worked against the New England Patriots, so we've got a relationship in terms of how you do things in the practice. So the practice structure was really easy to put together. It was just a matter of a couple of phone calls and we got that set in terms of what we want to get accomplished.

"There are going to be some opportunities for us to do a couple of different things while we're down there based on how the practice goes. And we'll have those discussions when we get down there."

One of the interesting things to watch will be how Falcons rookie right tackle Jake Matthews, who might see time against pass-rush demon J.J. Watt, as well as rookie sensation Jadeveon Clowney, performs on the field.

"They're great players," Matthews said of Matthews and Clowney. "I'm excited for it. Like I keep saying, I love the challenge. I love going against the best players."

Matthews said he'll have a little added motivation with all of his family set to attend the game. His father, Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, played for the Houston Oilers and coached for the Texans from 2009-10.