The Atlanta Falcons cut a total of 20 players the past two days to reach the league-mandated 53 spot roster limit. The cuts began slowly, with seven players given their walking papers on Friday evening. Dave's already covered them fairly well. Most of them were very expected cuts. Still, there were quite a few surprises in the list of the Turk's victims. I'm going to break them down individually and do the unthinkable: analyze them.
As a side note, you may very well see a few of these players come back to the Falcons' nest in a few hours. This afternoon marks the opening of Practice Squad rosters. Comrade Dimitroff and Smitty will have eight spots to fill. Follow the jump to get down to the nitty gritty of Cuttin' Season '09.
RB Thomas Brown - What can I say? I rooted hard for the guy. He returned kicks well and had a good running ability. His movement out of the backfield was very, very strong and he had a few kick returns that dazzled. While he's been officially cut, I honestly see him working with the practice squad. I fully expect to see him vying for a spot next year, seeing as I've predicted to many people that Norwood will likely get grabbed by another team in the next offseason. A RB of Jerious' ability can only be a backup for so long. Case in point: Michael Turner.
WR Chandler Williams - Chalk Chandler's return to Miami as a consequence of Eric Weems' near-meteoric rise from Practice Squad Scrub to Potential Future Starter. While Williams had a lot of promise, and indeed, showed a bit of it returning kicks, he could never quite get the hang of actually catching thrown balls. Perhaps that's because most of them came from the Howitzer that's attached to DJ Shock's shoulder; nevertheless, count me as one of the many that were surprised to read the bad news directly from the man himself.
LB Jamie Winborn - I heard his name a lot this preseason, and witnessed a few of his near-interceptions and almost-sacks both live and on the ol' teller-vision. It's a shame they were merely near and almost plays; had he made them, I would likely be wondering why he was still on the roster right about now.
WR Troy Bergeron - The Berg was an AFL monster. He was also an NFL practice squadder and, through some hard work, managed to bounce back to the Falcons after the AFL went the way of the do-do. He was impressive in the few downs I saw him play live, blocking well and running some tight routes. He also managed to catch the ball at times, always a plus when fighting for a roster spot. I also loved the fact that, in the Falcons' jersey number font, his #11 looked eerily similar to the pause button on my DVD player's remote. I guess with White, Jenkins, Finneran, Booker, and a rising Weems, there was little room for Troy on the books.
C Ben Wilkerson - Personally, I thought Wilkerson was one of the more solid C's to suit up for the third string. With Dimitroff's eyes squarely focused on the secondary, however, I can see how he's willing to leave us with just two centers entering the season. Who am I to argue with the man that batted .600+ in '08's draft? McClure and Romberg will be enough, I believe.
CB William Middleton - Though taken late in the fifth round this year, I personally didn't expect Middleton to be so ineffective out of the gate. While his cut is not that surprising, it is an indication of how our expectations as fans pan out versus the reality of a player's performance. I had him as a sleeper for a spot, but alas, he failed to deliver.
DT Vance Walker - I personally felt that Vance Walker would surprise the world and vie for at least backup status this go-round. Walker barely made an impact and lived up (or rather, down) to his seventh round pick status. Still, I think with some development, he could potentially find a home in this league.
OL Michael Butterworth - Really thought that, at least after the last two preseason games, Butterworth had a shot.
WR Robert Ferguson - Fergy's fate was sealed the moment he dropped a gorgeous TD pass delivered by a solid JPW in last Thursday's game. Well, ok, he also failed to show up on the radar much during the preseason, being handily beaten by fellow preseason acquisition Marty Booker.
WR Aaron Kelly - Kelly may have impressed the masses in minicamp and Russell Training Camp, but I was never fooled. With limited and lackluster play against non-red jerseys, Kelly was bound for the Turk's Scissor Train of Pain.
TE Jason Rader - We have Tony Gonzalez, Pro Bowl Tight End, Author/Nutritionist, Ball-catching net. Need I say more? We also have Justin Peele, Baby Wrangler, 1st Down Getter. Rader caught some balls this preseason and made an impression that he could potentially be harboring some useable talent, but that'll be up to another team to decide.
S Eric Brock - Don't recall seeing Brock do much this preseason, or this offseason for that matter.
CB Tony Tiller - I remember hearing Durham mention Tony at least twice, in between bouts of yelling "Lofton with the tackle!" and "Jerry getting good penetration!" in one particular game. Memory's a bit hazy; I may have been in an airline seat.
QB D.J. Shockley - While many of you were sad to see the stalwart ex-UGA go, right around 70% of our readership were adamant that his time in red and black was over; and really, with a preseason passer rating of 3.5 against second and third string defenses, his exeunt was only a matter of how poorly John Parker Wilson ended up doing. Unfortunately for Shock, Wilson was serviceable and ended the preseason with a similar number of attempts, a better completion ratio, and most jarringly, a 80.6 QB rating.
OG Ryan Stancheck - Who? In all seriousness, the way Stancheck's side of the OL collapsed around Shock and Wilson this preseason, I'm not surprised he's sitting at home twiddling his thumbs.
CB Glenn Sharpe - His name was not called once this entire preseason...ok, maybe in passing, but still. In the extremely overcrowded CB corps still lingering on our semi-final 53, Sharpe is a very healthy loss.
OT Adam Speer - Though I share his first name, I won't mince words. Speer was on his back more this preseason than a turtle with an inner ear issue.
LB Robert James, DE Maurice Lucas, OG Jose Valdez - Seeing as I didn't even realize we had these guys to cuts, they go here.
FYI: Some analysts think the Falcons could go to a 2 QB setup on the 53 and then move either Shockley or Wilson to the practice squad. The following quote from Thomas Dimitroff refutes that entirely:
"D.J. Shockley was a very important part of this organization last year. The way that he carries himself and how professional that he is, as well as his leadership ability; he really helped us evolve as an offense last year.
"This year, simply stated, John Parker showed that he had the ability to play quarterback. To us that was a decision that was made in our best interest going forward." - From this AJC article
And for those of you convinced that this is the final roster, think again. From the Comrade's talk with the AJC:
"We are always looking to upgrade our roster. We are here late tonight, culling the rosters that are coming in. Actually, our entire pro department and some of our college scouts are evaluating players that are coming available. We'll make some decision and confer with [coach] Mike Smith over the next day or two and discuss the possibilities."