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Smith: Falcons' problems will be corrected in time for season kick-off

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons coach Mike Smith isn't terribly concerned that his offensive line and secondary had some big leaks in a preseason loss at Tennessee.

Smith is confident those problems will be corrected before Atlanta opens the season at New Orleans in 13 days.

"You know there's going to matchups that you like and matchups you're going to be concerned about," Smith said Monday. "And with those matchups you're concerned about, it's a coach's job to put people in position where they can be successful."

The Falcons will use a vanilla approach when Jacksonville visits the Georgia Dome in both teams' preseason finale on Thursday.

Offensive stars such as quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Steven Jackson are unlikely to play, but Smith will follow his customary protocol for a preseason finale with the first-team offensive line and entire defense starting the game, but neither side is likely to take many snaps.

Atlanta's bigger focus is fixing what's needed before the Saints game plan is installed next week.

Against Tennessee, Ryan was sacked five times, and the defense allowed Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker to complete 11 of 13 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown and an impressive 134.9 rating.

But Smith stopped well short of citing individuals who struggled, particularly when asked about right tackle Lamar Holmes, a first-year starter who played in just one game last season.

"We gave up way too many sacks," Smith said. "Often times, people want to pinpoint it on one person. That's not the case. Unless you know what the protection is, what the front is and know who's responsible for (whom), you can't blame one person."

Holmes, a third-round pick from Southern Mississippi last year, believes the line, which also has a first-year starter in center Peter Konz, is making progress even though he knows Ryan is too valuable to absorb a consistent beating.

One bright spot was Jackson's average of 4.3 yards per carry on 12 attempts.

"Of course we had five sacks, which is never good, but it's something that it happened," Holmes said. "We're getting better as a unit. Me personally graded out, I did pretty well. There are a couple of technical issues I need to work on."

Smith took a similar approach in critiquing rookie cornerback Robert Alford, a second-round draft pick from Southwestern Louisiana who was beaten on three completions totaling 110 yards and took a team-high 53 snaps after starter Asante Samuel left the game early with a quadriceps injury.

Alford's performance was saved somewhat by his third-quarter interception of reserve quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but regarding the big gains, Smith indicated that the rookie wasn't solely at fault just because he was the closest defender to the ball.

"He did some things that I think were positive, but there were some things we've got to correct both mentally and physically," Smith said. "What you see on that film isn't always what actually happened, and by that I mean there are coverages where there's leverage that people are expecting help from, and sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn't."

Alford spent a couple of hours in the film room breaking down his performance with secondary coach Tim Lewis and assistant Joe Danna.

"I got a chance to feel what a real, live NFL game is like," Alford said, "and I think it really helped me."

Smith called out several players - defensive tackle Corey Peters, defensive end Kroy Biermann, punter Matt Bosher, rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu and fullback Bradie Ewing - for playing well against Tennessee

The coach indicated that Atlanta's list of injured of front-line players - Samuel, receiver Roddy White, kicker Matt Bryant and linebacker Stephen Nicholas - should be healthy before the Falcons visit New Orleans.
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