Here is a look at which players increased and decreased their chances of making the Falcons roster this year, as well as which players are setting themselves up for success and others who are not.
QB Dominique Davis – Davis built off his previously solid performance against the Ravens to play at a level where it seems now a forgone conclusion that he has made this team’s roster. He has looked the sharpest throughout the first two preseason games. Which is both praise of Davis, and also an indictment of the team’s other quarterbacks, Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson. Davis has been far from perfect, as he can still struggle at times with his accuracy and mechanics. But he has been significantly better in limited reps than either of the passers ahead of him on the depth chart. While it seemed unlikely that the Falcons would need to keep three quarterbacks on the depth, Davis play means that should be a probability. The big question for the Falcons is whether or not they keep either Redman or Wilson as the No. 2 or address it with a free agent pickup/trade later this summer.
RB Antone Smith – While Smith was the front-runner to land a roster spot as the fourth halfback on the team, his performance against Cincinnati helped solidify his hold. He showed very good quickness and speed in the open field, able to turn in a couple of nice runs and catches in the screen game. Smith was one of the team’s top gunners on special teams last year, and showcasing that he has some ability as a third down back should help keep his job safe.
FB Lousaka Polite – Polite has impressed despite only a limited time with the team. He caught a touchdown pass against the Bengals, but also did a good job as a lead blocker, showing his trademark power and pop at the point of attack. His major competitor, Mike Cox has been solid but doesn’t really have that eye-popping power at the point of attack. If Polite can keep this up, he can take the job right out from under Cox.
WR Marcus Jackson – He ended the game with 3 catches for 40 yards, but Jackson was one of the few highlights among the receivers late in the game, showcasing an ability to get open when Davis was in the game. He was targeted 6 times, all in the fourth quarter, and all of the incompletions to him were the result of poor throws not hiccups on Jackson’s part. While he is probably on the outside in terms of a roster spot, his offensive prowess could potentially give him the inside track on a practice squad spot.
TE LaMark Brown – Brown’s athleticism was his best asset and best chance to make this roster, and against the Bengals he got an opportunity to display it. While listed as a tight end, Brown has basically worked more as a flex player/wide receiver. His combination of size and athleticism does make him an intriguing developmental prospect as a guy that could be put on the practice squad.
DE John Abraham – Abe has been one of the more reliable players and playmakers on this team for the past six seasons, so it’s a bit odd to put him on this list since his stock is always high. But Abe seems to be adjusting well to the Nolan defense, getting quite a bit of work as a stand-up pass rusher. It’s a role he has performed well in the past with the Jets, but hasn’t got a ton of opportunities in Atlanta to do. But against the Bengals, he was consistently giving Andrew Whitworth, one of the league’s premier left tackles some troubles with his speed and burst off the edge.
DT Peria Jerry – Jerry had a good game against the Ravens, and backed it up with another solid effort against the Bengals. Aside from his roughing the passer penalty, he was active and disruptive, able to get some pressure up the middle and stuff the run as well. With Corey Peters out indefinitely, the Falcons will need players like Jerry to step up and be solid in the starting lineup.
WR James Rodgers – Rodgers has yet to really distinguish himself in the return game, and his two critical drops on the final drive against the Bengals may have really killed his chances of making this team. He’s going to really have to step up his game against the Dolphins if he wants to make this roster. The key will be showcasing that he is worthy of the kickoff return duties, because the door is near closing as an offensive skill player.
Falcons Offensive Line – Falcon fans were privileged to see a lot of screens against the Bengals. It seemed as if this team called at least half a dozen screens or shovel passes in the first half. And in re-watching the game, it seemed that was the case because Dirk Koetter was trying to take advantage of the aggressive Bengals pass rush. While a positive for Koetter, it’s not necessarily glowing for the Falcons front who were essentially getting beat. Even without their top pass rusher in Carlos Dunlap, the Falcons front did not give Ryan and Redman a ton of time to throw in the first half of the game. The clocks in both of the quarterbacks’ heads seemed to be going faster than normal due to the pressure they were seeing. And one wonders whether or not this offensive line has really improved from a year ago. And only time will tell, but this game certainly does not inspire me with confidence.
OG Andrew Jackson – After noting the struggles of Hawley and Johnson last week, this week it was Andrew Jackson that seemed to have problems. Part of could have been that he faced Geno Atkins a number of times, who was even punking Justin Blalock. It looks like seven of the OL spots have been locked up, with the current starting five as well as Konz and Holmes making the roster. The team will likely keep nine or ten blockers. And between Jackson, Hawley, and Johnson, they are all competing for that final two or three spots. And right now, none of them have really distinguished themselves from the pack.
DE Ray Edwards – Edwards stock is not down because he had a bad game against the Bengals. He played well, recording a tackle for loss, a pressure (when unblocked) and a hit on Dalton during the game. What is concerning is that Edwards continue to get pulled off the field in nickel situations. A year ago, his being pulled off the field in those circumstances were chalked up to injury and a less than civil relationship with Brian VanGorder. Neither of those issues should be factors this year, yet Edwards is still being pulled off the field in those situations. The Falcons did not pay Edwards $27.5 million to essentially be a two-down run defender. Hopefully against Cincinnati that was just a case of the team wanting to get other guys reps. But if that continues into the regular season, it’s going to be hard to envision Edwards living up to his price tag in 2012.