Caleb Rutherford has given you his thoughts on the final 53 man roster and the practice squad, which you should read right now. Do it.
Before we switch into full Chicago Bears game mode, though, I wanted to take a little time to run down my thoughts on the roster and squad myself. I was standing in a cornfield--don't ask--when the squad was announced, so I had a little time to digest
Before I get into a more specific breakdown, I will say this: I'm pleased with the final roster. I think you can argue with a handful of choices, and you can certainly make the case that the team could have chosen a different practice squad. Ultimately, though, this team looks healthy, strong and deep to these eyes. Everything else is just nitpicking.
Of course, I minored in nitpicking. Hit the jump, read the breakdown and share your thoughts.
- Look at that starting lineup! My God, it's full of stars!
- After the fourth pre-season game, I expected Antone Smith to make the roster. I was not disappointed.
You can make a reasonable argument that a fourth back is a luxury, but Michael Turner has been bitten by the injury cobra more than once in the last couple of years. Having Smith on hand gives the team some insurance, and you can never have too much of that.
- The secondary was a big question mark heading into the pre-season, but now the Falcons are sitting pretty. There's veteran talent (Dunta Robinson, James Sanders, Kelvin Hayden) a legitimate Pro Bowler (Brent Grimes), two extremely promising young safeties (William Moore, Thomas DeCoud) and solid cornerback depth (Dominique Franks, Chris Owens). That's enough to help you sleep easy, no?
- Darrin Walls was average at best during the Ravens game, but it wasn't enough to knock him off the roster. A surprisingly polished product for an undrafted free agent, Walls has soft hands and good instincts. The Falcons didn't want to chance losing him and will hope he can be a gameday inactive who quickly picks up the defense. If he can, you're looking at a surefire contributor down the line.
- It's hard not to feel good about Carlton Powell's potential. He was cut from a team with quality defensive tackle depth (the Jets), picked up partway through training camp and won a job. From all accounts, a bright dude with some potential. The Falcons likely kept Powell with an eye on working him into the rotation in 2012, if all goes well.
- Let's just celebrate for a second that the Falcons have enough talent higher on the depth chart to be able to carry guys like Walls and Powell in hopes of a big future payoff.
- Glad they were able to keep Andrew Jackson. Given his reputation as a polished blocker and the coaching staff's love for him, it's surprising to see Jackson relegated to the practice squad. I would have been howling a lot louder if they had lost him entirely, though.
- Ditto Jose Valdez.
- I know many were upset to lose Brandyn Harvey, and I understand the sentiment. Based on physical talent alone, he's an easy choice for the practice squad. When it comes right down to it, though, Kevin Cone and Drew Davis offer irresistible wheels.
Davis is the more polished player and would probably be the first one up in case of an injury, but keep an eye on Cone. From what I've heard, the team is enamored with his tools.
- Very glad the Falcons were comfortable putting John Parker Wilson on the practice squad and freeing up a roster spot for depth at another position. Kudos also to the Falcons for not panicking and rushing out to get a quarterback who didn't know their system at all when JPW faltered against the Ravens. Of course, if I had my choice, JPW would be headed elsewhere, but cooler heads prevail.
- Rafael Bush showed enough to make the practice squad again in 2011. With James Sanders only signed to a one-year deal and Thomas DeCoud's contract expiring at the end of the year, as well, Bush could be someone to watch in 2012.
- Marquez Branson has considerable upside at tight end, a position with two guys near or over 35 and a largely unproven commodity in Michael Palmer. The Falcons did well to sneak him through to the squad.
- Props to the team for holding on to Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews. Sidbury is a nice fourth end with some pass-rushing potential, while Matthews could someday be more than that.
- I may be the only one, but I'm very glad the Falcons kept Spencer Adkins around. This is a team with four start-caliber linebackers and a fifth one, Akeem Dent, who has shown promise already as a rookie. When you have six linebackers, one of them might as well be a freakishly athletic guy with some special teams prowess, like Adkins.
- I'm more than a little confused by the team's decision to keep Rob Bruggeman. For the first couple weeks of the season, we are literally a Joe Hawley injury away from starting this guy, who the team has quietly nurtured through the magic of the practice squad but has no meaningful game experience. I'm all for youth and the team obviously knows more about Bruggeman's abilities than I do, but I really prefer a guy like Brett Romberg when you're talking about an emergency center.
- Help me understand why Robert James is on the practice squad. The Falcons seem to love him, but all I see is a 27-year-old linebacker who has virtually no regular season snaps and a PED suspension at a position the Falcons are deep at. Seriously, help me.
- Losing Emmanuel Stephens stings a little bit. The Falcons are rolling deep at defensive end, but the dude looked nice in pre-season.
- See? I'm totally nitpicking. That should give you an idea of how satisfied I am with the final roster.
- The Falcons have Matt Ryan and Chris Redman on the active roster, so they're set. I want to note right off the bat that we have one of the best starters and one of the best backups in the league. What follows is three paragraphs of impassioned yet minor quibbling.
I do feel like the Falcons are bizarrely fixated on JPW, perhaps even more so than James. I'm no fan of Robert James (see above), but he WAS an actual draft pick and has done well in practice, even if he hasn't made a meaningful splash in any games.
Wilson, meanwhile, has also failed to get in any regular season games. He's known for his limited arm strength. When he was handed the keys against the Dolphins, he was middling before getting hurt. Even when he was concussed, the Falcons felt comfortable cutting Adam Froman without giving him more than 13 passes. Then JPW bombed it against the Ravens.
Ultimately, I can't understand what upside the Falcon see in this. There has to be quarterback out there with better physical tools who can learn the team's system. I would love to see JPW go into 2012 as the backup and excel, but I see no reason to believe that will happen.