Redman to Lead the Red Birds Against the Jags

Taylor signs at camp

The Jacksonville Jaguars kick off the 2008 preseason at home versus the Atlanta Falcons at 7:30 pm. The game is a homecoming for former defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who was hired as head coach by the Falcons in the offseason.

The last time the Falcons visited Jacksonville in the preseason, the game was played in a monsoon; QB Michael Vick was still under center; and the head coach was Jim Mora. How things have changed in 3 years.

The Falcons have undergone a complete facelift in light of the 2007 dogfighting charges against Vick and the failed tenure of former head coach Bobby Petrino. Owner Arthur Blank is doing what he can to repair the image of the Falcons around the league, and that started with the “good-guy” hire of Smith to guide the team through a rebuilding period. The Falcons drafted 11 rookies in 2008.

QB Chris Redman will get the start on Saturday night, but Smith has said this is a wide-open quarterback competition among Redman, Matt Ryan, DJ Shockley, and Joey Harrington. But the odds favor Ryan to be the eventual starter during the regular season if things go south in a hurry for the Falcons. You don’t give a guy like Ryan $34.5 million and expect him to hold a clipboard. Smith says all the Falcon quarterbacks will take an equal number of snaps during the preseason.

The Falcons boast one of the big free agent acquisitions in snaring RB Michael Turner from the San Diego Chargers. The Falcons parted ways with RB Warrick Dunn, who returned to his NFL roots in Tampa Bay. One guy who is expected to step in and be an integral player in Smith’s new defense is rookie LB Curtis Lofton. The insertion of Lofton into the starting MLB role allows Keith Brooking to move back to his more-natural weakside linebacker position. The Falcons had hoped to showcase on Saturday second-year WR Laurent Robinson (who is slated to start opposite WR Roddy White in the regular season), but a tailbone injury will keep Robinson out of action. Former Jaguar players who could see some action include Grady Jackson, Montavius Stanley, and Deke Cooper.

The Jaguars will be looking to parade some of their offseason acquisitions, including CB Drayton Florence, WR Troy Williamson, and backup QB Cleo Lemon. With the injuries to WRs Reggie Williams and Jerry Porter, expect to see a lot of Williamson, Matt Jones, and Mike Walker through the first half of the game. Walker is an intriguing guy who has great hands, but his knee has been an issue since the Jaguars drafted him in 2007. He will look to make his case that he has healed and is ready to showcase that on the field. Jones has been a training camp superstar this year, but will it translate when the real bullets fly? The verdict is still out.

Rookie DE Quentin Groves out of Auburn seems to be turning heads in camp. The Jaguars are very eager to see what he can do in live action. With 1st round pick DE Derrick Harvey still holding out, look for Groves to get some extended playing time in place of starters Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward.

The injury to LB Clint Ingram might give LB Justin Durant the green light to move into the starting strongside linebacker position. If Durant makes the most of his time on the field (and given that porous Atlanta offensive line), Durant could make his presence felt on several occasions Saturday night. Look for MLB Mike Peterson to play a few series and welcome the Falcon offense to Duval County with a few pops of his own.

Expect to see the Falcons to play their starters longer than the Jaguars do theirs. You should see a score like 24-20 in favor of the visiting Falcons.

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