The Falcons are set to open the regular season against Tampa Bay at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Here are five things to know about the Falcons on Thursday:
1. Practice. The Falcons’ practice is set for 1:55 p.m and wide receiver Julio Jones, who hasn’t fully practiced since the leaving the third exhibition game with an ankle injury on Aug. 25, is expected to fully participate and speak to the media.
2. Injury report. Julio Jones (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Free safety Robenson Therezie (thumb) fully participated in practice. Defensive end Dwight Freeney (not injury related) did not participate. Strong safety Keanu Neal (right knee) did not participate in practice. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) was limited in practice. Strong safety Kemal Ishmael (shoulder) was limited in practice and running back Terron Ward (ankle) was limited in practice.
3. Must-win opener? The Falcons have a brutal schedule in 2016. Some believe the opener against Tampa Bay is a must-win game.
4. Pressure is on the Ice Man. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has had three straight non-winning seasons (4-12, 6-10 and 8-8) since signing is $100 million contract. The pressure is on Ryan to help the Falcons return to respectability.
5. Pick you crew. Columnist Mark Bradley wants to know if you want the Falcons’ football braintrust or Tampa Bay’s top football men. He wants you to pick between Dan Quinn, Kyle Shanahan and Matt Ryan or Dirk Koetter, Mike Smith and Jameis Winston.
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov preview Falcons-Bucs by talking about the Mike Smith difference, the biggest source of stress for Dan Quinn and the Falcons’ defensive game plan.