The final round of cuts are upon us, and the first half of those passed on Friday evening without much surprise.
Those among the Falcons fallen include Brian Banks, Pat Schiller, Ronnie Wingo, Theo Goins, Alec Savoie, Micanor Regis, Neal Huynh, Terrence Johnson, Peyton Thompson, Charles Mitchell and Jeremy Shelley. Sean Renfree and Andrew Szczerba were also placed on IR.
The only move that really raises an eyebrow might be Mitchell, but even there it was pretty clear that Zeke Motta had a better preseason lining up at strong safety. And as for Banks, well, there are rumors that he's been offered a spot in the Falcons organization - in community relations. Hey, not a bad ending for the guy if he takes it.
So with all of that behind us, we look ahead at the guys who haven't received that dreaded call from the coaches. Let's take a look at the decisions Mike Smith & Co. will have to make by tomorrow evening:
IN: Jason Snelling, Josh Vaughn OUT: Antone Smith, Patrick Dimarco
If you had any doubts about Snelling, I believe he quieted those last night by reminding you of what he can bring to the table, even against backups. The fact that he can also spell Bradie Ewing at fullback, if needed, is a nice bonus, and I think he's essentially a lock. That also means DiMarco, despite some nice special teams flashes, is likely out.
That leaves Smith and Vaughn, who have each battled well for the No. 4 spot. Antone is the better special-teamer, I think, and that's why he was on the roster last year. But what I think Vaughn offers is more tantalizing, especially when you consider that Jackson and Snelling are not young in their years. If anything, Vaughn shows he has the raw skills to make things happen on special teams, and I think he gets the semi-surprising nod over Smith.
IN: Kevin Cone, Darius Johnson OUT: James Rodgers, Martel Moore
Neither Cone nor Johnson really distinguished themselves last night, but that's OK because both bring something different to the table. Cone is a reliable possession guy who excels on special teams, while Johnson is more of a speedster with upside. Six wideouts seems reasonable with the roster's current makeup.
Moore will be a good guy for the practice squad. He flashed some potential out there with what looked to me like some solid route-running. Rodgers, alas, it seems that he and his brother are destined to part ways.
IN: Joe Hawley, Ryan Schraeder, Terren Jones, Harland Gunn OUT: PK Manley, Jacques McClendon
It's pretty clear to me that Hawley's good depth, all taunting aside, and that Schraeder and Jones will be the tackles (Atlanta needs depth there, if Holmes is any indication). And I think Sheriff Gunn is our extra inside man.
No, this has nothing to do with McClendon's -10 yard reception (really, that was more entertaining than anything else. I simply think that Gunn looked better than McClendon and Manley, especially in the running game. It isn't a huge edge, by any means, but I think the scale slightly tips in his favor right now.
IN: Travian Robertson, Peria Jerry, Stansly Maponga OUT: Adam Replogle
I'm not thrilled about this prediction, but I think Jerry is here to stay through the final year of his rookie deal. He provides solid depth at defensive tackle, along with Robertson, and he's reliable. Matthews will also spend time at DT this year, meaning four looks like the max number at the position. Maponga should make the 53, as well.
That said, Replogle is a prime choice for the practice squad.
IN: Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu, Robert James OUT: Stephen Nicholas
Surprise, surprise. Or maybe not. Our pal James sticks around, as do the two undrafted phenoms that made Atlanta's preseason much more interesting.
Nicholas goes for a couple reasons, number one being performance. There's also age (30), contract (about $10M left on his deal) and the fact that Nolan utilizes the nickel so often that it's really only two linebackers that start in his system. I also really like Bartu's potential as a cover linebacker, and the coaching staff could feel the same way.
IN: Dominique Franks, Zeke Motta, Shann Schillinger, Kemal Ishmael OUT: Jordan Mabin
10 defensive backs in total would reflect Mike Nolan's emphasis on having a strong, deep secondary.
To be honest, Schillinger and Ishmael both looked about even throughout the preseason. And like the Cone-Johnson battle, both make the roster by nature of both being good at different things: Schillinger's chops come on special teams, while Ishmael offers something interesting in his potential as a cover man.
Practice Squad Predictions:
RB Ronnie Wingo, WR Martel Moore, OG Theo Goins, DT Adam Replogle, LB Nick Clancy, CB Jordan Mabin, K Jeremy Shelley and one outside acquisition