The Falcons play poorly in the preseason. That means just about nothing. Even if Ryan Fitzpatrick is torching your defense, he's also not a bad quarterback in his own right. Just something to bear in mind.
With that said, let's get right into the topic at hand:
Locks: Matt Ryan, Dominique Davis
Trending Up: Sean Renfree
Long Shots: Seth Doege
Davis has had his ups and his downs this preseason. But one would have to think that unless the Falcons want to dip into a free agent pool that features Matt Leinart and Byron Leftwich, Davis will be the primary backup this year. He's far from excellent in the pocket, but he'll complete about half of his throws and make mostly sound decisions. He can also make plays with his legs.
I was surprised Renfree didn't get a look against the Titans, but it makes sense that the team would want to give Davis as many reps as possible. The former Duke signal-caller has some great physical tools, looked solid in the first two games and should probably still make the roster as QB No. 3, or if not the team will certainly stash him on the practice squad.
Doege has yet to make a preseason appearance, and looks as if he won't be with the team much longer.
Locks: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Bradie Ewing (FB)
Trending Up: Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, Josh Vaughn
Trending Down: Ronnie Wingo, Patrick DiMarco (FB)
Long Shots: Donald Russell, Devonte Campbell (FB)
Hey, a Bradie Ewing sighting! And he looked good as a run-blocker, too. That's real nice to see. DiMarco looked solid on some special teams, though his blocking on offense hasn't looked too special. If the team is confident in Ewing's health, there shouldn't be a need to carry multiple fullbacks.
As for halfback, we know it's Jackson and Rodgers. Snelling is likely to be the No. 3 once again, considering he has plenty of experience in the system and a nice, diverse skill set on offense. He also does not care for the Saints.
Smith and Vaughn have both performed well throughout their battle for the No. 4 spot, though neither got much work last night. Smith, as we know, is a great special teamer, but he's also shown that he can catch and make things happen on the ground. Ditto for Vaughn. It'll be a tough call to make for Dimitroff and company, but I'd still give the slight edge to Smith at this point. Wingo got his share of carries in the first two games, so don't count him out for the practice squad just yet. Russell and Campbell could be among this week's cuts.
Locks: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Trending Up: Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, Darius Johnson
Trending Down: James Rodgers, Marcus Jackson, Martel Moore
Long Shots: Rashad Evans, Marcus Sales
The man leading Atlanta in receptions and yardage this preseason is none other than Darius Johnson, who is making himself a strong case to be on the final roster, let alone the practice squad. It's hard to argue against that type of production, even if it is against fellow backups. Davis, though he did not snag any passes last night, has also produced when called upon. Cone has been his usual, reliable self and flashed the ability to make those tough catches on the sidelines.
Outside of those three, there's been a lot of "a few plays here, a few plays there" among Atlanta's receiving corps, but nothing really jumps out at you. Moore, for all the attention he got from the media during camp, hasn't really done much come game-time. The same goes for Rodgers the younger and Jackson. We could really see this group trimmed down on Tuesday.
Locks: Tony Gonzalez, Chase Coffman
Trending Up: Levine Toilolo
Trending Down: Andrew Szczerba
Long Shots: Colin Cloherty, Tim Biere
This group stays pretty much unchanged. Toilolo will almost certainly make the team if only for his potential, and Szczerba hasn't done much to assert himself this preseason.
Locks: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes, Joe Hawley
Trending Up: Ryan Schraeder, Jacques McClendon
Trending Down: Alec Savoie, Jeff Nady, Harland Gunn, Phillipkeith Manley,
Long Shots: Terren Jones, Theo Goins, Matt Smith
Watching this group play gives me flashbacks to 2011. Neither Ryan nor Davis really had a clean pocket to work from on Saturday night.
At the same time, the run-blocking looked a little bit better. Schraeder got some work at right tackle, and McClendon got some work on the inside. Both looked good at some points and poor at others, but I think the potential these two offer gives each a good shot at making the roster.
Gunn and Manley have a solid shot by virtue of their experiences on the roster last season. Savoie has looked good at times, and Nady's probably in the mix as well given the complete lack of depth at tackle.
Locks: Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi
Trending Up: Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga, Cliff Matthews
Long Shots: Cam Henderson, Brandon Thurmond
With so much young talent, this positions looks fairly set. Matthews should keep his spot if the team likes what he can do at defensive tackle, Goodman has looked like a respectable LDE and Maponga has some promise. Remember that the team carried six defensive ends last year, too.
Henderson and Thurmond could be candidates for the practice squad, but it's just too crowded for either to even think about the roster.
Locks: Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Travian Robertson
Trending Up: Adam Replogle
Trending Down: Peria Jerry, Micanor Regis
Long Shots: Neal Huynh
Babineaux and Peters are looking just fine, and Robertson provides valuable depth. The surprise, though, has been Replogle, who has notched a sack and made a few stops against the run. I like his chances, truth be told.
I have not seen much of Regis, and Jerry has looked quite unimpressive. Really, the former first-rounder looks like he's on his way out in Atlanta. And considering the info regarding Matthews' cross-training at defensive tackle, I'd say it's a sign that Smitty is not super-pleased with the depth here. Maybe the 'ole ball coach will be tempted to request that Dimitroff re-contact Richard Seymour.
Locks: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
Trending Up: Stephen Nicholas, Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu
Trending Down: Robert James, Pat Schiller
Long Shots: Brian Banks, Nick Clancy
Whoever scouted Atlanta's UDFA linebackers needs a promotion.
Worrilow was a little more human against the Titans, but Bartu definitely stepped his game up in response. In fact, Bartu's coverage skills could prove more valuable to the Falcons coaching staff than Worrilow's incredible production. But I think both have a legitimate shot at the final roster. Nicholas didn't play last night, but he was apparently a popular choice for "surprise cuts" out in the Twitterverse. His salary certainly makes that a possibility, and this offseason has also shown that Dimitroff is willing to dump vets (Clabo, Robinson, Abraham) in favor of youth. We'll see soon enough.
As for the others, James and Schiller have looked solid. It's just a matter of how many linebackers Atlanta wants to carry (that number was five last year). Clancy has been outshined by his fellow UDFAs, and Banks, well, I can't say his chances look good, unfortunately.
Locks: Asante Samuel, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Robert McClain
Trending Up: Dominique Franks
Trending Down: Peyton Thompson
Long Shots: Terrence Johnson, Jordan Mabin
As with tight end, cornerback is essentially set. Franks looks like a great bet for the No. 5 spot if you take into account his experience. Let's just hope Alford can recover from last night's third-degree burns.
Locks: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore
Trending Up: Zeke Motta, Kemal Ishmael
Trending Down: Charles Mitchell, Shann Schillinger
Long Shots: Troy Sanders
I'll preface this by saying that none of Atlanta's reserve secondary has looked particularly good this preseason. That said, I like the promise shown by Motta and Ishmael. It seems like they've been trying to use Ishmael in a variety ways at free safety, and Motta has shown that, at the very least, he's a consistent tackler and good at playing the run. There's more excitement there than with Mitchell and Schillinger, or at least judging from what I've seen.
Locks: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris
Trending Up: Jeremy Shelley
Recalling Shelley's career at Alabama, he's been exactly that for the Falcons this preseason: absolute money inside the 40 but unreliable from a distance. He was 3-of-9 from 40-49 yards out with the Crimson Tide, and he never even attempted one beyond 50. But he might not be a bad choice for the practice squad.
The Falcons trimmed the roster down to 78 players this afternoon. Those cuts include Doege, Russell, Campbell, Cloherty, Biere, Nady, Smith, Thurmond, Henderson, Clancy and Sanders. No big surprises there.
If I had to predict the final three to go before the Tuesday deadline, I'd name Sales, Goins and Mabin as the most likely.