Back in May, I speculated that the Falcons pair of seventh round picks Andrew Jackson and Cliff Matthews might face long odds to make the roster. But it seems from early scuttlebutt in camp, that prediction was off the mark. Both players have earned praise from head coach Mike Smith who said of them “[they] might be two of the best-looking guys in the draft class.”
The departure of Harvey Dahl certainly has helped Jackson’s odds of making the roster. The Falcons have typically kept nine offensive linemen on the roster during the regular season. The five starters are obviously locks. Whomever loses the right guard battle between Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson also will be a lock. The team will probably also keep reserves Joe Hawley and Will Svitek as well. That leaves just one remaining position, which Jackson probably faces the toughest competition from tackle Jose Valdez. But if both players impress this summer, then it could mean the Falcons opt to keep ten blockers.
Matthews is in the mix at defensive end. The Falcons have kept five defensive ends the past two seasons, and it seems that his early play likely will prompt the Falcons to do so again. John Abraham, Ray Edwards, and Kroy Biermann are locks at the position. If Matthews fills the fifth spot, then that would mean that Lawrence Sidbury and Chauncey Davis are competing for a single roster spot. The fact that both Abraham and Biermann are entering contract years, probably gives a small edge to Sidbury and Matthews due to their youth and developmental potential. If Matthews does land the fifth spot, he’ll likely be relegated to special teams duty this year if anything. As a rookie, Sidbury performed in that role. But last year as the team’s fifth end, he hardly saw the field.
The Falcons carried ten defensive linemen on the roster last year, although it’s unlikely they will carry that many this year. With Peria Jerry seemingly making a healthy return, and Jonathan Babineaux not facing a one-game suspension, carrying a fifth defensive tackle probably is not in the cards. But still the Falcons could have nine defensive linemen on the roster, which is one more than most NFL teams typically carry.
Carrying extra linemen on either side of the ball could potentially affect other roster positions because it means you cannot as many there. It could prompt the team to carry one less running back, wide receiver, linebacker, or defensive back than normal. So the early positives on Jackson and Matthews could turn out to be negatives for other young guys on the roster trying to earn a spot.