The NFL instituted a new rule that teams will be allowed to activate 46 players on gamedays instead of the traditional 45 players. As such, I think through two preseason contests the Falcons have pretty much found 46 players that assuming there are no injuries to them, are virtual locks to make this year’s roster. That leaves 7 remaining spots that are still in contention that will have to be earned through these final two preseason games.
Here is my list of 46 that are locks to make the roster. These are guys that I feel will not be cut before the season starts. If they aren’t on the final roster it will be because they are on the injured reserve or some other reserve list. Here are the offensive players:
QB – Ryan, Redman, Wilson
RB – Turner, Mughelli, Snelling, Rodgers,
WR – Jones, White, Douglas, Meier, Weems
TE – Gonzalez, Palmer
OT – Baker, Clabo, Svitek
OG – Blalock, Reynolds, Johnson
OC – McClure, Hawley
Now for the defense:
DE – Edwards, Abraham, Biermann, Matthews
DT – Babineaux, Peters, Jerry
LB – Nicholas, Lofton Weatherspoon, Peterson, Wire, Dent
CB – Grimes, Robinson, Owens, Franks
S – Moore, DeCoud, Bush, Schillinger
And special teams:
K – Bryant
P – Bosher
LS – Zelenka
If there are any surprises, it probably comes on the defensive side of the ball where I think rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews has assured himself a roster spot this year with his play this year, as well as safety Rafael Bush.
Now among the seven open positions, these are the battles that I think are most noteworthy:
1. Fifth Running Back
Traditionally teams keep five running backs. The Falcons don’t necessarily need to since Snelling can play either halfback or fullback, but it’s nice to have depth. I think Gartrell Johnson is probably the leading candidate, but I have yet to be impressed by either him, Antone Smith, or Lucas Cox thus far this summer to think that they actually merit a roster spot. At this point, if the Falcons choose to keep five running backs, I’d prefer that the final spot goes to someone they pick up on the waiver wire.
2. Sixth Wide Receiver
It remains to be seen if the Falcons will keep six wideouts. The front runner at this point appears to be Brandyn Harvey. And barring someone really having a surprisingly strong outing the rest of the way, I don’t really see anybody else stepping in here. This decision will likely come down to whether the team thinks Harvey will be able to clear waivers at the end of the summer. If not, then he’ll stick around on the active roster at least through the early weeks. If so, then they will take the risk of cutting him in hopes that he can land on the practice squad.
3. Third tight end
While Reggie Kelly is the front runner, I’m not convinced Kelly has locked up a roster spot yet. Until Kelly gets on the field and shows his blocking ability hasn’t diminished, he is not a lock. The odds are certainly in his favor, but the Falcons could opt to ad another blocking tight end at summer’s end if they feel that Kelly is not up to snuff.
4. Ninth and Tenth Linemen
The Falcons traditionally keep nine linemen, but if that is the case then the Falcons will have to make a decision to part ways with either Jose Valdez or Andrew Jackson. While I think neither player are locks to make the final roster, I do think they are about as close as one can get at this point. I think the team wants to keep both players, and thus will keep the “extra” tenth blocker on the roster. If anybody else is going to push into this competition it would likely be Rob Bruggeman, but with the presence of Hawley on the roster, he seems redundant.
5. Fifth Defensive End
Although I think Matthews has assured himself of a roster spot, I don’t think the team is goign to count on him to be a regular part of the rotation. That means that they will keep another defensive end to fill in behind John Abraham at right end. I think Chauncey Davis remains the front runner here, although I think Lawrence Sidbury has shown enough to make the battle close. Sidbury’s injury status will definitely impact his chances.
6. Fourth Defensive Tackle
I think Vance Walker is the obvious choice here, but until he can get on the field he won’t be able to solidify his chances. His odds of remaining a Falcon have been helped by the fact that neither Trey Lewis, Kiante Tripp, or Carlton Powell have emerged as viable alternatives. But if Walker cannot get healthy, you may find the Falcons looking elsewhere for a veteran option here. Depending on the length of Peters injury, the team may also decide for a second year in a row to keep five defensive tackles.
7. Seventh Linebacker
Due to the versatility of players like Sean Weatherspoon, Mike Peterson, and Coy Wire, the Falcons can definitely get away with only having six linebackers on the roster and still have solid depth at all three positions. But if that is the case, then it would mean the team would have to decide to part ways with Robert James, Spencer Adkins, and Bear Woods. While neither James or Adkins has shined in preseason actions thus far, Woods ability on special teams makes him the front runner among the group to stick with the team.
8. Fifth Cornerback
Darrin Walls is the front runner here, but the team may decide to go with a veteran addition if they aren’t comfortable with where Owens and Franks are at the end of the summer.