Preseason or not, Friday night's 31-16 loss to the New York Jets was an important step for the Atlanta Falcons.
Not only did the team need to gauge its progress, it needed to get a feel for new coach Bobby Petrino, a defense depleted during the off-season and, of course, the loss of quarterback Mike Vick.
Vick proved to be a non-issue. Joey Harrington was efficient as the new starter, completing 6 of 9 passes for 88 yards while playing a little more than one quarter.
Petrino's offense showed signs of promise with 312 total yards.
The defense, however, left a lot of questions. Jets starting quarterback Chad Pennington never threw a pass, and yet New York finished with 319 yards - 146 on the ground, 173 in the air.
"It was good for us," Petrino said. "That's what we have to work on: our run defense."
Atlanta lost defensive end Patrick Kerney in the off-season to free agency. It also lost defensive tackle Rod Coleman and linebacker Ed Hartwell to injuries. New York took advantage, scoring on five of 11 possessions.
"It was good to see where we are at as a team and as a defense," said safety Lawyer Milloy. "I think the defense did very well especially with the fact that the Jets came out in a no-huddle offense. Everyone played hard and that was good to see."
New York backup quarterback Kellen Clemons carved Atlanta's defense to shreds. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to tight end Sean Ryan.
"I thought it was great to get in there and it was the first time our defense got to play against some live tackling," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "We felt good about getting our feet wet and guys played with heart and intensity. We have a lot of work to do, but it was a good start."
Harrington was on target, especially in an eight-play, 82-yard first-quarter touchdown drive that included a 22-yard completion to Joe Horn and a 37-yard strike to Dwayne Blakley.
"Offensively, this was great work for us. I think we showed where we are with this offense," Harrington said. "It was encouraging, but there is more we can work on. It's something to get us going this preseason."
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.