Falcons' Julio Jones breaks a sweat, but offense struggles in stadium debut

ATLANTA -- At least Julio Jones got a chance to see some live game action before the regular season.

The Atlanta Falcons' All-Pro wide receiver, who missed the first two exhibitions coming off March toe surgery, played a few series but had no catches in Saturday's 24-14 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals at the grand opening of the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jones was targeted once on a deep ball from Matt Ryan early in the second quarter. He just recently started practicing on a full-time basis after being held out in the offseason and being limited at the start of training camp. Jones and Ryan certainly aim to re-establish their rhythm, but they still have a couple of weeks before it really counts. Preseason is about knocking off the rust.

Ryan, who engineered a pair of touchdown drives in the previous two preseason games, wasn't quite as sharp Saturday. He completed 4 of 11 passes for 36 yards with a QB rating of 8.1. Ryan saw his first pass picked off by Tyrann Mathieu after a deflection and almost threw another pick targeting Taylor Gabriel on a deep ball.

Again, it's preseason.

QB depth chart: Ryan played three series before giving way to Matt Schaub. Schaub turned the ball over on his first play on a sack-fumble, with tight end Josh Perkins yielding the sack to Markus Golden. Schaub finished the first half and Matt Simms started the second half and finished the game. Simms connected with Josh Magee on a screen, and Magee did the rest for a 57-yard touchdown. Undrafted rookie Alek Torgersen did not play.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Falcons looked ...: Not themselves, offensively. The Falcons, who averaged 33.8 points per game last season, didn't score with the first-team offense Saturday and managed just 70 total yards. Mohamed Sanu had a drop, and Ryan didn't connect on three deep-ball attempts to Jones, Gabriel and Sanu. ... Defensively, the Falcons started exactly the way coach Dan Quinn wanted by getting a turnover. Keanu Neal forced a fumble that was recovered by rookie linebacker Duke Riley

One reason to be concerned: Well, there's no reason to be too concerned about the offense because Ryan and crew should be just fine for the regular season. Defensively, the pair of touchdown receptions given up to Cardinals receiver John Brown is a worry because of the cornerback depth behind starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. C.J. Goodwin gave up one of the scores and Jarnor Jones the other.

That guy could start: Defensive lineman Jack Crawford showed up in a big way. The former Dallas Cowboys player made a few plays in the backfield, including a sack and forcing a fumble late in the second quarter that was recovered by teammate Takkarist McKinley. Crawford has the versatility to play inside and out and hasn't been able to show his full ability this preseason while dealing with a groin strain.

Rookie watch: We talked about McKinley's fumble recovery. The rookie first-round draft pick continued to show his tremendous speed off the edge. His relentless pressure led to Crawford's sack on a third-down play. Maybe equally impressive was how McKinley showed great pursuit on a play down the field, cleaning up a tackle after three of his teammates missed the runner. McKinley, who had a nice speed rush midway through the third quarter, has special qualities and relentless energy.

Freeman update: Running back Devonta Freeman missed Saturday's game while still in the later stages of the concussion protocol. Quinn said Freeman is unlikely to play in the final preseason game against Jacksonville on Thursday, although he could return to practice this coming week. Freeman was on the field helping the other running backs warm up Saturday. He did so with a heavy heart, after announcing on Instagram that his grandmother passed away following a bout with breast cancer.

On guard: Wes Schweitzer started at right guard ahead of Ben Garland for the second consecutive game, although Quinn said not to read too much into the situation. Quinn said the starter won't be named until after Thursday's final preseason game. Schweitzer and Garland actually worked a lot together Saturday with Schweitzer at right guard and Garland at center behind Alex Mack.

Injury update: Rookie running back Brian Hill had to be helped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Hill, the fifth-round pick, is in a battle with Terron Ward for the third running back spot behind Freeman and Tevin Coleman. ... Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, who started the game at weakside linebacker, left the game early with a shoulder injury. ... Reserve offensive tackle Kevin Graf had to be helped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle injury. ... Reserve center Cornelius Edison left the field with an undisclosed injury.