There have been too many mistakes and penalties and too few points for Atlanta through two preseason losses. There was no sign of panic at Wednesday’s practice, but there is a sense of urgency that this is the week to establish momentum.
“Week 3 is always a good week of the preseason,” Ryan said Wednesday. “It’s the first week you really get into a game-week schedule and start to prepare a little bit for your opponent. It’s been good to get back into that routine.
“Our hope is we do clean up some of those things and we are sharper this week.”
The first-team offense managed only one field goal after starting two first-quarter possessions on Jacksonville’s side of the field in last week’s 15-13 loss to the Jaguars. A false-start penalty hurt one drive. An intentional grounding call against Ryan stopped the second drive.
Ryan and the other starters are expected to play at least the first half in Saturday night’s game at Pittsburgh.
“We want to see some efficiency in all three phases, not just on the offensive side of the ball,” said coach Mike Smith. “We want to get out there and move the football and ultimately the way you’re judged is by the number of points you put on the scoreboard.
“We’d like to see a clean first half from that group.”
The visit to Pittsburgh doesn’t provide the ideal setting to build offensive confidence. The Falcons opened the 2010 season with a 15-9 overtime loss to the Steelers in Ryan’s only game of the season without a touchdown pass.
Ryan has only two TD passes — both to Harry Douglas — in preseason losses to Miami and Jacksonville.
The Falcons have added rookie receiver Julio Jones to an offense that returns most of its top weapons from a 13-3 season. Ryan, receiver Roddy White, running back Michael Turner, tight end Tony Gonzalez and fullback Ovie Mughelli are coming off Pro Bowl seasons.
The Falcons re-signed two of their three free agents on the offensive line. The offense looks deep after the team re-signed backup running back Jason Snelling, drafted running back Jacquizz Rodgers and recently added veteran tight end Reggie Kelly.
Another reason for optimism has been the play of Douglas, who had a 76-yard touchdown catch from Ryan as the offensive highlight in the loss at Jacksonville.
Douglas missed the 2009 season following knee surgery and says he feels stronger in his second year back.
The Falcons are looking for more explosive plays this season. Douglas could be in position for more big plays if opposing defenses focus on White and Jones in three-receiver formations.
“My best attributes are my speed and my quickness,” Douglas said Wednesday. “When I’m able to use it, I’m able to help my team out and put us in good positions.
“As camp has gone on, I’m starting to feel better than I did before I got hurt. Once again I can just come out here and play and allow myself to just be myself and do what the coaches ask me to do.”
The Falcons already list the 6-foot-3 Jones, the sixth overall pick from Alabama, as the starter with White in the base offense.
White returned to practice Wednesday. He missed two days after taking a hit to his thigh in the Jacksonville game.
Jones has four catches for 73 yards in the first two preseason games. The 6-foot-3 Jones has impressed his teammates with his size, speed and work ethic.
“He has that kind of attitude where he wants to be the best, you can tell,” Gonzalez said. “He wants to learn. He doesn’t mind putting in the work. There’s a difference between saying ‘I want to be the best’ and saying ‘I’m willing to be the best.’
“He’s willing to be a great football player in this league.”
Gonzalez said Jones is just another reason the offense will be fine.
“We’re a good team,” he said. “We were good on offense last year. I think a lot of people forget about that, it seems like. We’re going to do the same things we did last year that made us successful and then add to it, and obviously Julio is going to help us out a lot on that.”
NOTES: Smith said defensive end Ray Edwards should make his preseason debut this week after recovering from offseason knee surgery. ... Cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring) did not practice. Smith said rookie Darrin Walls will move into the rotation at cornerback if Owens can’t play against the Steelers.