6 things we learned from the Falcons’ 23-20 loss to the Dolphins

It was your typical exhibition opener.

The Falcons starters played well Thursday, while the reserves fell apart.

The backup defenders, including Super Bowl starter Jalen Collins, gave up a 99-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter as Miami rallied to a 23-20 win at Hard Rock Stadium. 

Here are six things we learned from the game:

1. Campbell is coming along. De’Vondre Campbell, who is making the move to strongside linebacker, had a spectacular one-handed interception. 

“Dre is really somebody that has stood out to us in this training camp so far,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’ve asked (him to do) line-of-scrimmage stuff playing (strongside) linebacker and cover tight ends. We’ve asked him to rush more.

“He’s off to a good start. We still want to get our mindset about the ball stronger, but we were pleased to get that play from him tonight.”

Campbell also had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup, but the interception was spectacular.

“I was just reading my keys,” Campbell said. “They gave me a run-pass indication. I kind of backed off the ball and got into my drop. I think the quarterback underestimated how tall I really was. He thought he could float it in over my head. I just kind of made a play on the ball.” 

Cornerback Jarnor Jones also had an interception.

2. Garland vs. Schweitzer. Ben Garland started at right guard, and Wes Schweitzer received playing time, too. Neither player stuck out like a sore thumb, so that’s a good thing. 

Right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who was next to Garland, said things went well. 

“It felt good,” Schraeder said. “We communicated well. It felt pretty good. Both of those guys have been playing well.”

Schraeder is ready for more action.

“I felt that we executed pretty well for the short time that we were in,” Schraeder said. “I’m kind of looking forward to next week to get a few more snaps and get a rhythm going.”

3. First-team stood up. The starting defense forced a three-and-out and most received the rest of the night off.

Sharrod Neasman started for Keanu Neal at strong safety. 

“I think we did pretty well,” outside linebacker Vic Beasley said. “It’s a good start for us and something to build off of. It’s nothing like getting that real game-time experience.”

The Falcons dropped the Dolphins for a 1-yard loss on first down. Gave up a 3-yard completion on second down and Neasman made a stop on third down.

“We just got them on them back on their heels,” Beasley said. “A lot of their good players didn’t play, but it was just good to see our guys get back out there on the field.”

The Falcons’ defense held the Dolphins to 60 yards rushing and just 2.7 yards per carry.

4. Hall flashed. Speedy Marvin Hall, 24, who played at Washington and has spent time with the Raiders and the Cardinals, stood out among the crowded group of backup wide receivers. He had a nice 26-yard punt return, downed a punt and caught three passes for 23 yards. He also had a fumble on a kickoff return. 

“I have to cover the ball better,” Hall said. “The ball is everything. I wasn’t holding it like I should have. Next time, I just have to make sure that I’m securing it.”

Hall showed some explosiveness on his punt return. 

“I had some great blocks,” Hall said. “Everyone was on their man, and I just hit it when I saw the hole.”

5. Poor pass defense. Quinn clearly was upset with the team giving up a 99-yard touchdown pass.

“That’s one of the big alerts that we have when teams are backed up. There’s a pass play to the flat and there are short plays,” Quinn said. “For Jalen (Collins) and for (Marcelis) Branch to not get the player down. ... Sometimes when a deep pass in completed we’ve got to get the player down. If it ends up being a 40-yard pass, those you get to fight another down. Those that go the distance are tough to handle.”

6. Kicking battle. Do the Falcons have a budding place-kicking controversy?

Veteran kicker Matt Bryant missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.

Rookie Mike Meyer made a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter. 

“We knew we’d give him a shot,” Quinn said. “You guys who’ve been at practice have seen how strong his leg is. We thought, if we had the opportunity, that we were going to give him a shot at it. It just so happened that he nailed it just like he does in practice.

“He’s got a fantastic model to look (at) in terms of consistency in Matt Bryant. Watching Matt (trying to) make every kick the same, that’s really rubbed off on Mike as well. We are happy for him tonight.”

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