ORLANDO, Fla. -- A veteran NFL scout summed up Matt Ryan's showing Thursday night with a few simple words.
"Matt looked bad," the scout said. "No poise."
No, Ryan wasn't on the top of his game. Neither was the offense, as a whole. The dress rehearsal for the Atlanta Falcons' first-team offense concluded with Ryan completing 12-of-22 passes for 129 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a passer rating of 53 in a 17-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The interception occurred in the red zone on third down from the Dolphins' 8-yard line. Ryan was targeting Jacob Tamme, but it turned into an easy pick for safety Reshad Jones. It looked like a flashback to last season, when Ryan threw four red zone interceptions.
Ryan explained that it wasn't totally his fault.
"We had a double move going with Jacob cutting back to the inside," Ryan said. "He kind of got knocked off a little bit by the Sam 'backer. And I expected him to get across face, and it doesn't happen with the bump. So, just have got to move on with the progression and try and move back side. It's just one of those things, being aggressive, we didn't make a play. But it's a good thing to learn from. Hopefully we'll be better when we get to the regular season."
Ryan still looks a little uncomfortable in Year 2 of Kyle Shanahan's offense, although he maintains his is comfortable with the bootlegs and rollouts expected of him. His best throw Thursday was a 36-yard hookup with speedy Aldrick Robinson down the right sideline. Ryan played into the second half while trying to establish a rhythm. It never happened.
In all fairness, he didn't have his top target for all six series he played, as Julio Jones left the game with an ankle injury on the Falcons' third series. Still, much better was expected as the Falcons approach the Sept. 11 season opener against Tampa Bay. In three preseason games, Ryan has completed 18-of-37 passes for 207 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a passer rating of 56.6.
"We would have liked to have played better tonight, there's no question about that," Ryan said. "But it is what it is. We've got to get back to work tomorrow; look at the film, evaluate it, see how we can improve, and then get back on the practice field."
QB depth chart: Again, this is preseason, so you don't want to read too much into things. But if Ryan strings several bad games together to begin the regular season, you might have to look harder at backup Matt Schaub, who went 10-for-11 passing for 109 yards on Thursday. Sure, all factors have to be weighed in evaluating Ryan, such as the pressure the offensive line may have allowed, if a receiver ran a bad route or got knocked off a route, or if a throw on point like the one Ryan made to rookie Austin Hooper in the second half ends up getting fumbled away. But Ryan is the first to admit when he makes a bad decision. Sean Renfree finished out Thursday's game after Schaub.
Maybe that player could start: This is based on nothing but a quick observation, but it was interesting to see the Falcons insert backup center Ben Garland at right guard with the starters in the second half in place of Andy Levitre. Falcons coach Dan Quinn singled out Garland's play during one practice this preseason. I'm sure the coaching staff won't tolerate Levitre getting pushed around, like he was at times last season. That's not to say Garland's appearance was directly related to Levitre's play Thursday night, but it's worth monitoring.
Who got hurt? Everybody. We talked about Jones earlier. The injury bug started with first-round draft pick Keanu Neal exiting with a right knee injury after missing a tackle. Then came Jones. Then came defensive end Adrian Clayborn with a shoulder injury. Then came wide receiver Justin Hardy with an ankle injury. Then came rookie wide receiver Devin Fuller with a shoulder injury. Then undrafted rookie Brandon Wilds with a knee injury. Quinn said Jones could have returned to the game, which would indicate the ankle injury is not serious. Jones could return to practice Sunday. Quinn said Neal will undergo an MRI Friday to determine the extent of his injury. Clayborn will have an MRI on his left shoulder.
A surprise player who impressed: Don't know if it's a surprise, but Hardy made a nice grab near the sideline before exiting with the ankle injury. The play was ruled out of bounds, but it certainly looked like Hardy came up with the catch, although the call wasn't challenged. The point is, Hardy can make a tough catch. Just give him the opportunity.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Falcons looked …: Overmatched in terms of trying to get the running backs going. Devonta Freeman had five rushes for 8 yards, and Tevin Coleman was stuffed by Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso for a loss on a fourth-and-1 play. The Falcons needed to run the ball better, but couldn't against a solid Dolphins front seven.
One reason to be concerned: The pass rush remains nonexistent. Vic Beasley Jr. tried to spin his way into some sacks, but he was getting stuffed with every move. And Beasley certainly appeared to favor the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Clayborn didn't get a chance to get going before the injury. And Dwight Freeney (back) didn't even make the trip. The best rushes came from Brooks Reed up the middle and Ra'Shede Hageman, who got his hand up to block a pass. Remember, the Falcons had a league-low 19 sacks last season.
Bouncing back: Desmond Trufant said he would shake off getting burned by Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor on a 50-yard touchdown last week. Well, Trufant did just that, intercepting a Ryan Tannehill pass tipped by Reed. Trufant almost had another pick in the game but dropped it.
Competition continues: Rookie Wes Schweitzer got some work with the starters at right guard as he continues to compete with veteran Chris Chester. Schweitzer's first assignment Thursday? Contending with Suh, and he fell to the ground trying to get a body on Suh on his first snap. Chester seems likely to start in Week 1 just based on experience. Rookie inside linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell started for the second straight game, ahead of Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon. Quinn said Jones, Campbell, and Weatherspoon are the guys getting the majority of the reps inside right now.