We’re only a few days away from the Atlanta Falcons kicking off training camp, so there’s a limited amount of time for me to dust off my crystal ball and try and predict which 53 players will make this team’s roster heading into the 2018 regular season.
If you’re curious which players I projected to make the team’s roster two months ago on the heels of the draft, you can click here.
Keep (2): Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
Practice Squad: Kurt Benkert
Cut: Garrett Grayson
There should be no surprises here. The most notable camp battle will be the one between Grayson and Benkert for the chance to be the team’s No. 3 quarterback. My expectation is that neither player will perform at a high enough level to make the team’s roster, but the winner of the battle should be a strong candidate to land on the practice squad.
Keep (4): Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith, Ricky Ortiz
Practice Squad: Malik Williams
Cut: Terrence Magee, Justin Crawford, Daniel Marx, Luke McNitt
The most interesting battle at this position group will be which player wins the fullback position. I suspect Ortiz to be the front-runner among that group, but there’s a better than average chance that the Falcons get to the end of the summer and are still scouring the waiver wire for more proven options.
I suspect Williams could get the nod over the other running back candidates for a practice-squad role given his ability as a blocker in pass protection.
Keep (6): Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Russell Gage, Marvin Hall
Practice Squad: Dontez Byrd
Cut: Reggie Davis, Christian Blake, Taj Williams, Devin Gray, Lamar Jordan
This should be a compelling position battle for the last few spots on the Falcons depth chart. Whoever wins the vacant return specialist role could have significant ramifications for whoever wins this battle, particularly for the sixth receiver spot.
I think Hall’s experience from 2017 gives him a leg up in the competition, but don’t be surprised if Davis overtakes him this summer. Byrd is my pick to land on the practice squad, as I think the Falcons will always be on the lookout for another explosive vertical threat to develop.
Keep (3): Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Practice Squad: Troy Mangen, Alex Gray
Cut: Jaeden Graham
No real surprises here, although determining whether Paulsen or Saubert emerges as the primary backup to Hooper this summer is anyone’s guess. Mangen makes the practice squad due to his blocking abilities and Gray automatically has a slot thanks to the NFL’s International Player Program.
Keep (9): Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Brandon Fusco, Ryan Schraeder, Ben Garland, Austin Pasztor, Wes Schweitzer, Sean Harlow
Practice Squad: Daniel Brunskill, Matt Gono, J.C. Hassenauer
Cut: Ty Sambrailo, Jamil Douglas, Salesi Uhatefe
This is going to be one of the more highly contested position groups among the offense this summer, with a number of roles up for grabs. The chief of which is the swing tackle role where Austin Pasztor, Ty Sambrailo, Matt Gono and Daniel Brunskill are competing.
I expect Pasztor, now fully healthy, will win the gig. The youth, potential and athleticism of Brunskill and Gono will also compel the Falcons to keep both on the practice squad for future development.
Keep an eye on former Alabama center J.C. Hassenauer as a developmental option at center to keep on the practice squad.
Keep (10): Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby, Terrell McClain, Deadrin Senat, J.T. Jones, Garrison Smith
Practice Squad: Jon Cunningham
Cut: Justin Zimmer, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Mackendy Cheridor
The Falcons’ eight-man rotation is mostly set at this position group. The question is going to be whether someone emerges as the ninth or tenth player in the rotation.
Right now, I think Jones’ pass-rushing skills and potential versatility to dabble at linebacker might give him the edge over other candidates. But Smith has the potential to shore up some much-needed depth at defensive tackle as well.
Keep (6): Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley, Kemal Ishmael, Foye Oluokun, Richard Jarvis
Practice Squad: Anthony Wimbush
Cut: Emmanuel Ellerbee, Emmanuel Smith
The battle for the sixth linebacker spot is the most contested among this position group. Right now, I think Jarvis’ potential ability to fill in as depth at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker gives him a bit of an edge. I think Wimbush’s pass-rushing potential will allow the Falcons to try and stash him on the practice squad to see how he develops for 2019.
Keep (6): Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole, Isaiah Oliver, Justin Bethel, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Cut: Leon McFadden, Deante Burton
The fight for the nickel/third cornerback position between Poole and Oliver will be front and center this summer. Right now I give Poole the slight edge to be the guy for the start of the season, but Oliver should overtake him at some point this fall.
Bethel and Wilson’s abilities on special teams coupled with their years of experience will make both valuable depth pieces.
Keep (4): Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ron Parker
Practice Squad: Tyson Graham
Cut: Marcelis Branch, Chris Lammons, Jason Hall, Secdrick Cooper
The recent addition of Parker solidifies the depth of this position group, but there will still be a competitive fight for a potential practice-squad role here. I suspect Graham will emerge in that group, but it’s really anybody’s game at this point.
Keep (3): Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris
Cut: David Marvin
No surprises with this steady group of players.
There you have it, 53 players that heading into training camp I think will make the Falcons roster! Leave a comment below to share where you agree or disagree with my projection.
Preseason Week 2 Q&A
Aaron reviews the Falcons vs. Chiefs preseason action from last week and answers listeners questions. He discusses:
- Damontae Kazee pushing Ricardo Allen as a starter
- Standout undrafted rookies like Anthony Winbush and Jon Celestin
- Grady Jarrett’s Pro Bowl potential
- Duke Riley’s progress
- Marvin Hall’s role
- Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling
- How Calvin Ridley matches up with corners in the NFC South
- Making adjustments to his practice squad and 53-man roster projections from earlier this summer.
Rapid Reaction to Preseason Loss to Chiefs
Aaron reacts to the Falcons 28-14 loss to the Chiefs in their second preseason game. He goes position by position, breaking down the standouts and struggles including Calvin Ridley’s breakout performance and potential to impact as a returner, the battles at tight end and right guard, the improvement from Duke Riley and thoughts on the new helmet penalty.
Preseason Week 2 vs. Chiefs Preview
Aaron previews tonight’s preseason action between the Falcons and Chiefs. He goes position by position, discussing the team’s QB rotation, seeing more of Calvin Ridley, the battle at right guard, tweaking the DT rotation, potential shifts in secondary roles and more.
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