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Atlanta scrimmage shows there's no clear starter at QB

POSTED: August 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Renaldo Stover/Times regional staff

Falcons quarterback and former University of Georgia standout D.J. Shockley warms up Friday night at Mill Creek High.

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HOSCHTON – The first scrimmage of the year provided little to no answer for who will be the starting quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons on opening day.

Chris Redman, Joey Harrington, Matt Ryan and D.J. Shockley all took snaps under center Friday at the Falcons scrimmage at Mill Creek High in Hoschton, but none of the four quarterbacks’ performance was worthy of calling them a clear-cut starter.

Shockley was OK, Ryan had one big play and Redman was ineffective to say the least.

Harrington, seemed to be the most ready to start, going 5-for-8 for 50 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled for 15 yards on a broken play early in the first half.

"I saw Joey move the ball and operate well in the first half," first-year head coach Mike Smith said.

Smith also complemented the play of the rookie Ryan, the third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

After a rough first half, Ryan gave the Falcons fans on hand a glimpse of what the future may hold, as Ryan found a wide-open Roddy White for a 70-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. It was White’s second touchdown catch of the day.

"When you throw it over the defense’s head it’s really a backbreaker," Smith said.

That touchdown was the last the fans got to see of Ryan, as Shockley and Harrington finished out the scrimmage.

The biggest question coming out of the scrimmage was the play of Redman, who played in only two series and whose only completion was an interception thrown to linebacker Michael Boley.

"The coverage put me in the right position," Boley said. "I was to jump to the No. 1 receiver and fortunately the ball came right to me."

Boley’s interception was the first of two turnovers committed by Redman, who fumbled the ball during his other series in the second half. Jamaal Anderson was credited for the forced fumble.

"There’s going to be a lot of teaching from this tape," said Smith, who admitted that the scrimmage did nothing in terms of deciding who will be the starting quarterback.

"It’s just the first time they get evaluated," he said of the quarterbacks.

While the quarterback decision benefited little from the scrimmage, one player who stands to benefit from his performance is rookie running back Thomas Brown.

Brown, who was greeted with a nice ovation from the crowd when first introduced, ran the ball five times for 36 yards, which was the most of any Falcons running back. Jerious Norwood finished with 33 yards on five carries, while Jason Snelling finished with 25 yards and a touchdown.

"Thomas ran the ball very well tonight," Smith said of the rookie from the University of Georgia. "He made some nice cuts and some nice runs."

In the scrimmage, however, no cut was nicer than the one Norwood had during the kickoff return portion of the event.

Standing on the right side of the field, the third-year running back fielded the kick on the opposite sideline, sprinted up the sideline, made a nice spin move on the 45-yard line and ran untouched into the endzone.

That play, along with the other big plays on offense and defense made the scrimmage a success.

"I think it was good not just for the older guys, but for the younger guys, as well," Boley said. "We were finally able to get out here and tackle which will help us get ready for next week."

The Falcons’ first preseason game is Aug. 9 against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

NOTES: While Norwood displayed what he could do on kickoffs, Adam Jennings proved he can be an explosive punt returner, by returning one for a touchdown…Brian Finneran, who is recovering from a knee injury, seems to be healthy and was running hard on special teams as if he was trying to earn a roster spot…Todd McClure, Matt Weiner, Keith Brooking, Joe Horn and Laurent Robinson were just a few of the Falcons that did not play in the scrimmage…10,200 people showed up to watch the free event, which was won by the defense 29-28.



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