I made my initial projection at which 53 players will make the Atlanta Falcons’ opening-day roster before the start of training camp and now it’s time to make my final one now that camp is over and all four preseason games have been played.
This was tough because a number of players worked hard to make the team and the Falcons had a bunch of injuries over the past two preseason games that could limit which players are available for the season opener little more than a week from now against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That’s important to note because if some of those injuries linger and keep a couple of players out the first week or two of the season, then it will definitely affect how the Falcons build their roster.
But here goes:
Starter: Matt Ryan
Backup: Matt Schaub
Practice Squad: Matt Simms
All along I’ve suspected that the Falcons would keep three quarterbacks with Sean Renfree being the player I originally designated as the third arm. He was outperformed by Simms this summer, but due to the injuries elsewhere on the roster, I don’t know if the Falcons can quite afford to keep a third quarterback on the roster. With Simms still being eligible for the practice squad, I think they try and stash him there until they get a bit healthier elsewhere in order to free up room on the 53-man roster.
Starters: Devonta Freeman, Patrick DiMarco
Backups: Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
Practice Squad: Brandon Wilds
Cut: Will Ratelle
The extent of Brandon Wilds’ knee injury will determine if he’s even healthy enough to make the practice squad, but I’m not sure the Falcons will keep him on the roster. Ward played well against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason finale despite having an obviously bad ankle that caused him to miss the first three games. Also given Ward’s experience on third downs and special teams likely gave him an edge over Wilds, regardless of injury status.
Starters: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu
Backups: Justin Hardy, Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams, J.D. McKissic
Practice Squad: Corey Washington
Cut: Eric Weems
Even though he played very well this summer, I’ve had a hard time seeing McKissic making the roster because I’m not sure the team is that willing to keep a guy just to be a return specialist, part of the reason why the team was so willing to part ways with Devin Hester earlier this summer. But in the end I relented and had him make the roster over Eric Weems, a long-time special-teams stalwart. Part of the reason why I think the team might be willing to part with Weems is because of his high salary for a role player ($885,000) and the possibility that all the injuries at safety mean that the team might opt to keep Sharrod Neasman on the roster. Neasman has been getting the backup work as a personal protector on punts, which is Weems’ primary role on special teams.
Starter: Jacob Tamme
Backups: D.J. Tialavea, Austin Hooper
Practice Squad: Josh Perkins
Cut: Levine Toilolo
I believe Toilolo’s tenure as a Falcon will come to an end due to the superior blocking abilities of Tialavea. Perkins looked good as a receiver and will be stashed on the practice squad to possibly compete for the third tight end spot next summer.
Starters: Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Chris Chester, Ryan Schraeder
Backups: Tom Compton, Will Schweitzer, Mike Person, Ben Garland
Practice Squad: Laurence Gibson
Cut: Bryce Harris, Collin Rahrig
Harris really struggled this summer and will likely get the axe. That shoudl allow Garland to sneak onto the roster as the ninth blocker and an option as a backup center. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Falcons scoured the waiver wire for another option to back up Mack. Person and Garland really struggled with their snapping abilities during the preseason games and having a more experienced center rather than someone that is actually a guard trying to masquerade as a center would be a smart decision. Keep an eye on former Seahawks Patrick Lewis and Drew Nowak.
Starters: Derrick Shelby, Grady Jarrett, Tyson Jackson, Brooks Reed
Backups: Adrian Clayborn, Jonathan Babineaux, Dwight Freeney, Ra’Shede Hageman, Courtney Upshaw
Practice Squad: Nordly Capi, Joey Mbu
Cut: Malliciah Goodman, Cory Johnson
As you can probably guess, the “starters” are those that will likely start the majority of games in the team’s base defense, although both Clayborn and Babineaux are likely to get a lot more playing time than Reed and Jackson, respectively.
Like Toilolo, Goodman will be another 2013 draft pick that probably has played his last snap with the Falcons. It’s nice to hear that Mbu’s hand injury that he suffered against Jacksonville doesn’t appear serious, which should help him make the practice squad. Capi has been very good as an edge-rusher throughout the preseason and there’s a good chance another team scoops him up before he can clear waivers to be put on the Falcons practice squad.
Starters: Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell
Backups: Sean Weatherspoon, Paul Worrilow, LaRoy Reynolds
Practice Squad: Tyler Starr
Cut: Philip Wheeler, Matt Wells
I was on the bubble with determining whether Wheeler would make it. His role is a little diminished since he’s a second-string strong-side linebacker, third-string weak-side linebacker and does not especially stand out on special teams. If the Falcons need to cut someone quickly to free up a roster spot like they did often last year with Charles Godfrey, I suspect Wheeler will be this year’s version of that player. Reynolds should make it because he is much better on special teams. Starr still lingers on the practice squad.
Starters: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford
Backups: Brian Poole, Akeem King, C.J. Goodwin
Suspended: Jalen Collins
Practice Squad: Devonte Johnson
Cut: DeMarcus Van Dyke
Poole rightfully emerged as the team’s best option as a nickel cornerback and likely will open up the season in that role. I suspect the Falcons will scour the waiver wire for a potential veteran pickup since neither King nor Goodwin have played well enough to think they are poised to be one twisted ankle away from being regulars in the nickel sub-package. Between the two, I think Goodwin played better this summer so should be less likely to get cut in order to make way for that veteran. But since King is a draft pick, he might be given the edge.
Starters: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal
Backups: Robenson Therezie, DaShon Goldson, Kemal Ishmael, Sharrod Neasman
Practice Squad: Damian Parms
In his post-game presser, head coach Dan Quinn sounded somewhat optimistic that Ishmael will be ready for the season-opener. But his lingering shoulder injury, coupled with that of Therezie (hand) and Neal (knee) leaves the Falcons fairly thin at safety. Which is why I think Neasman makes it and we should also not forget that Poole can also double as a backup free safety in case Therezie isn’t healthy. Neasman’s work on special teams as well as showing the versatility to play both free and strong safety this summer should give him a leg up over Parms if the Falcons opt to keep six safeties to start the season.
Starters: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris
Cuts: Shayne Graham
Graham likely blew his opportunity to stick on the roster with the missed field goal he had against the Jaguars. But he’ll be on speed dial in the event that Bryant looks old this year.