When your team is 2-6 and jobs likely depend on a turnaround, you can't stick to the status quo for eight more games and hope for the best. The Falcons have to make changes.
With that in mind, here's a quick stock report for . Guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Jonathan Babineaux who had reasonably productive starts to the season yet can't expect major upticks due to any number of factors (offensive line, play calling, crowded rotations, etc.) won't be listed in either area, so keep that in mind.
RB Devonta Freeman: As Freeman gets more acclimated to the pro game, his pass protection and ball security will improve. There's little question he's a fast, decisive runner who isn't afraid to lower his shoulder into contact, and that he's a quality pass catching back already in his rookie season.
TE Levine Toilolo: I don't necessarily expect Toilolo to be great or even good, but I do anticipate he'll get more looks and hopefully do a little more with them. These last eight games are truly his last chance to audition for a starting gig going forward, and nothing he's put on tape or the stat sheet up to this point indicates he's up to the task. Crisper routes could help considerably here, as well as one or two successful red zone catches.
LT Jake Matthews: With nearly two full weeks to heal up, Matthews' balky ankle should give him less trouble. Some time watching tape should help him to tighten up some of the holding calls and poor hand usage that have further plagued him. The talent and desire are there, so I fully anticipate Matthews delivering a greatly improved second half, so long as he can stay healthy.
DE Jonathan Massaquoi: Mass isn't going to endear himself to the beleaguered coaching staff by sniping at them, but his production his limited snaps make the case. The Falcons need to get Massaquoi on the field and rushing the passer more often, and I anticipate that will happen. Big results could ensure he's in line for a starting role next season.
DE Malliciah Goodman: Goodman is no Jonathan Babineaux, but he's quietly put together a solid season and has seen his snap count increase as a result. Given that Goodman is young, talented and has a future with this team as a valuable rotational piece at minimum, I can't see the Falcons cutting his snaps too dramatically. Hopefully he'll begin to produce more over the next eight games.
ILB Prince Shembo: I have no idea what's happened to Shembo in the last few weeks, but he's clearly one of the team's best bets at linebacker and should be starting. Assuming good health coming out of the bye and no disciplinary actions we haven't been made aware of, he should take back over for Joplo Bartu and hopefully deliver a strong second half.
CB Desmond Trufant: Trufant has been a true asset in coverage again this year, but the pass deflections aren't coming with the same frequency and he has dropped at least one pick. I anticipate that at some point, he'll start getting his hands on the ball more often, so anticipate that his numbers will catch up with his performance in the second half.
S Dezmen Southward: Southward's a tremendous athlete who has looked good in his limited snaps, especially in coverage. Given the Falcons' myriad woes and the likelihood that they'll take a hard look at Southward ahead of next season, expect him to see more snaps. I'm bullish on his ability to perform well when he gets them.
RB Steven Jackson: Jackson has run reasonably well, but with Freeman and Antone Smith looking better, I anticipate he'll see his snaps trimmed going forward. S-Jax is under contract next year, but it's reasonable to anticipate the team cutting ties in 2015.
T Gabe Carimi: Carimi may have lost his job permanently to Ryan Schraeder, who held up alright against the Lions. If so, expect him to get in the game as an extra blocker and as an injury replacement the rest of the way.
DE Jonathan Babineaux: While it will be nice to have Babs back in action and contributing, I don't expect him to get more than 30-40% of the snaps going forward as the Falcons evaluate younger players.
NT Paul Soliai: Soliai's been decent against the run, but considering his one-dimensional nature, he really should be more than that. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Falcons deploy lighter fronts going forward, reducing Soliai's snap counts steadily in the second half. He may be a useful piece again next season under a new staff, but he hasn't been thus far.
LB Joplo Bartu: Bartu got an opportunity with Shembo hurt/stranded on another planet and couldn't really capitalize. He'll head back to the bench.
CBs Robert McClain/Josh Wilson: The two will likely continue to split time as the third cornerback, but with Charles Godfrey signed and Southward coming on strong, they won't necessarily be Mike Nolan's top choices for the extra defensive back in nickel sets. Wilson is getting a little more time, but I imagine they'll continue to see-saw a bit.
S Kemal Ishmael: Ishmael is useful and he's a hard hitter, but he had been starting and playing 100% of the snaps for William Moore. The Godfrey signing and Mike Nolan's recent comments tell us the team isn't happy with his coverage, however, so expect Godfrey and Southward to slice snaps away from him going forward, with William Moore's return likely returning him to a part-time role with plenty of special teams snaps.
Who do you have trending up and/or down?