ATLANTA -- He didn't play Thursday night in the Falcons' 17-15 win over the Jaguars, but Julio Jones' mere presence on the field during pregame warm-ups was a good sign for the Falcons heading into the regular season.
Jones injured an ankle during last week's third preseason game against Miami in Orlando. He was nowhere to be seen during practice Sunday through Tuesday, so Thursday was his first time back in front of the public eye since the injury.
Jones went through a light workout with the other receivers, fielding passes from Matt Ryan and testing his ability to turn, pivot and accelerate up the field. He did it at half speed, but told Falcons coach Dan Quinn that he was encouraged.
"He looked good today," Quinn said of Jones. "He had confidence in it. He jumped some and landed on it, felt good. For him to come to me and say he was very excited about how he felt, and still have another three days of treatment to get better, he is very, very encouraged. And I am, too."
Quinn said Jones will "certainly be close" to full practice come Monday as the Falcons start preparation for the Sept. 11 season opener against Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome.
Just for kicks: Special teams coach Keith Armstrong said it would be a kicking competition between veterans Matt Bryant and Shayne Graham, with Bryant slowed by muscle tightness this preseason. Well, Bryant returned to the lineup Thursday night and made a 27-yard field goal along with two extra points. Graham missed a 32-yard field goal wide left in the third quarter. His attempt was pushed back five yards following a delay-of-game penalty. Still, the Falcons expect both kickers to be 100 percent under 40 yards. Bryant, who kicked well in practice leading up to the game, should get the nod.
Maybe that player could start: Robenson Therezie, listed as Ricardo Allen's backup at free safety, actually started the game next to Allen with strong safeties Keanu Neal (knee) and Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) out. Therezie made the two biggest plays of the night. The first was him leaping in the air to intercept a pass by Jaguars quarterback Brandon Allen on third-and-12. The next was a booming hit Therezie put on former Auburn teammate Corey Grant right near the Falcons' sideline, which drew a collective gasp from the crowd and a chorus of cheers from his teammates. (Therezie was flagged for taunting his old friend after the play.) If Ishmael, for some reason, isn't healthy enough to start the season, and if newly signed veteran Dashon Goldson is not up to speed, maybe Therezie can fill in at strong safety. Neal is set to miss at least the opener after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Who got hurt? Therezie got banged up after the interception and had his eyes checked on the sideline, which might have indicated a concussion concern. But Therezie appeared to shake it off quickly. Later, Therezie and nose tackle Joey Mbu both exited because of hand injuries and did not return. Fullback Will Ratelle, who was just re-signed Wednesday after being cut last Friday, left the game because of an ankle injury after a 15-yard reception.
A surprise player who impressed: Courtney Upshaw has been relatively quiet this preseason after signing a one-year deal in the offseason. However, the former Baltimore Ravens' second-round pick made his presence felt with a sack against the Jaguars, along with a couple of nice tackles for little or no gain. Upshaw was active and played like a guy fighting for a roster spot. The sack alone should get the coaches' attention, considering that's an area where the Falcons have struggled so much.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Falcons looked ...: Well, it was hard to tell because Ryan played only one snap, which was a handoff to Devonta Freeman for a 3-yard gain. Ryan was replaced by Matt Schaub following the cameo appearance. Defensively, Vic Beasley Jr. got into the backfield on the first play of Jacksonville's first series, and rookie linebacker Deion Jones cleaned it up for a 6-yard loss. On third down of the same drive, rookie linebacker De'Vondre Campbell again showed his range and speed in trying to chase down speedy Denard Robinson. Campbell came out of the game with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Tyson Jackson and Beasley, just another indication that Campbell will start at weak-side linebacker in the opener.
Catching on: Receivers Nick Williams and J.D. McKissic both made some nice plays while trying to make their case to stick on the final 53. Williams had a pair of consecutive, 20-plus-yard receptions and also showed some Madden-type moves on a punt return. McKissic made a nice catch down the left sideline for a 25-yard gain. So do they both make it? It's hard to say. The receivers ahead of them are Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy and Aldrick Robinson. Veteran Eric Weems is another receiver and a special-teams ace. McKissic, an undrafted rookie from Arkansas State, generated a lot of buzz after his 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first preseason game.
In the running: Terron Ward was sidelined for weeks because of an ankle injury and watched undrafted Brandon Wilds start to gather steam as the No. 3 running back. Well, Ward returned with a bang by scoring two touchdowns Thursday night on runs of 3 yards and 1 yard. Meanwhile, Wilds missed the game because of a knee injury. If Ward keeps his No. 3 spot, it's because he's capable of playing wherever on special teams.
Quick hits: Cornerback Akeem King had a rough start to the night in getting beaten on several plays, including a touchdown. But King rebounded and had a nice pass breakup. ... Safety Damian Parms had a noticeable tackle on special teams. ... Some of the players who had noticeable missed tackles were linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, safety Dashon Goldson, nickelback Brian Poole, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and linebacker Philip Wheeler. ... Deion Jones and Paul Worrilow worked together for a series at inside linebacker. They've been competing at middle linebacker, with Jones likely in the lead going into the regular season.